x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Egypt's Morsi tells US 'freedom of speech comes with responsibilities'

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivered a spirited speech during his first official visit to the United States.

NEW YORK CITY // Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi delivered a spirited speech during his first official visit to the United States, where he addressed the Arab world's recent outbreak of clashes in response to anti-Islam film clips but also called for foreign investment to help rebuild his country.

The leader, who in June was declared the winner of Egypt's presidential election, said yesterday that his country "is presently undergoing a profound transition from dictatorship to democracy."

"It's not easy to do this," he added.

Mr Morsi was in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, although he also met with Hilary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, in an attempt to smooth over relations after clips of an anti-Islam film ignited protests in Egypt that overran the US embassy in Cairo.

Yesterday, he addressed the violence in a speech delivered to attendees of the Clinton Global Initiative, which gathers government, non-profit and business leaders each year to tackle social problems in different parts of the world.

"Demonstrations and clashes recently broke out in a large number of Arab and Islamic countries in response to an incident of religious defamation," said Mr Morsi. "While we must acknowledge freedom of expression, we must also recognise that such freedom comes with responsibilities, especially when it comes with serious implications for international peace and stability."

More than a dozen people have been killed in the Arab world, including Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, since the violence began earlier this month.

Yet in a conversation with Former President Bill Clinton, Mr Morsi also argued that Egypt's armed forces were "carrying out their security duties" and creating an environment with "a great deal of stability."

He then called for foreign investors to consider financing in some of Egypt's traditionally strong business sectors, including tourism and agriculture.

"We need investments and investors," said Mr Morsi. "We need international cooperation… and transfer of technology."

Both leaders noted that Egypt's bill for importing fuel for energy tops US$15 billion each year, and that the country is pushing hard to pursue alternative ways of generating energy through sources such as solar and wind.

Some companies have already been making fresh in-roads within the country's energy sector. BP, for one, reportedly expects to invest $11 billion to unearth natural gas through a project in Egypt's Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Morsi said Egypt's economic progress, overall, has been hampered by all of the money that has been smuggled out of the country but that the country is on its way to rebounding.

"Our revolution is only one-and-a-half years old," said Mr Morsi. "Our presidential elections are only three months old, but we are going in that direction: real development."