US Secretary of State Pompeo to Ahram Online: I’m so impressed by Egypt's ability to face corona and economic challenges

Suzy Elgeneidy , Thursday 23 Apr 2020

Mike Pompeo spoke via teleconference link to select journalists from the Middle East, including Al-Ahram

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (photo: AP)

Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, told Ahram Online that he is "incredibly impressed" with what Egypt is doing to confront the coronavirus pandemic, and its ability to tackle other challenges, such as security and economic challenges. 

In response to a question by Ahram Online, Pompeo said that, “Every country has to take some of their energy and some of the time of their country leadership and their people and focus on protecting their own people from this virus. Certainly we have seen this in the United States, but it is true for every country." 

"That means," he continued, "there will be fewer resources available for other things, but I have been incredibly impressed by Egypt and other countries in the Middle East and their ability to continue in the faith of these challenges, the health challenges and the challenges presented by the tragic loss of lives, but also the challenges to their nations' economies, for their people to work and to generate wealth and to take care of their own people, their own families."

"I have been very impressed by the ability to keep up their work on national security challenges all around the world. We still have conversations. We often begin them by talking about the virus, but we also spend a great deal of time continuing to work on problems that are all around the region and the Middle East," Pompeo said.

Pompeo's remarks came during a press conference held via the Internet for a limited number of journalists from several countries in the Middle East — in which Al-Ahram participated as a representative of the Egyptian press — about how the coronavirus crisis will affect US relations with its strategic allies, like Egypt, and the need to cooperate internationally to combat the challenges posted by the corona crisis.

In response to a question posed by Ahram Online, concerning if there is a deadline to reveal the results of US investigations into the causes of the coronavirus pandemic, Pompeo said, “The deadline is upon us already. This is urgent." 

Understanding how this pandemic came to be, and from where precisely the virus emanated, is important, helping healthcare officials, epidemiologists and scientists to discern how exactly to address this challenge, he noted.

"It needs to happen urgently, and we demand this of every country. We want them to be transparent, we want them to be open, if they want to be a part of civilised society, a part of the network of countries working cooperatively to deliver good outcomes for the world. They have to be prepared to be open and transparent. This is what happens in democracies. We hope to cooperate and we hope there will be the capacity to share information."

On the World Health Organisation's determination that the coronavirus originated in an animal and not in a lab, Pompeo said, “What we can say for sure is that the virus originated in China, and they suggested in a disinformation campaign that it began in Europe or was spread there by US soldiers."

"This is dangerous," he said. “This isn't political." 

"You have to know the nature and the path way that the virus took in order to save lives, and that didn't happen. They were too slow. The information didn't get to the world quickly enough. The World Health Organisation didn't demand it. The Chinese Communist Party didn't deliver it."

"We continue to investigate. The whole world wants to know where this came from and how it got to the place where the virus could spread in this way. This isn't only about accountability. There will be a day for accountability, but this is ongoing. These labs in China, there are multiple labs where the Chinese Communist Party is working on various levels, and the labs are still open. The world is not permitted to go into these labs to evaluate security and their capacity to protect the objects studied from being released. It is important that there are global efforts to ensure the people who are working with dangerous substances have the capability to prevent accidental release."

"So we and the world still did not have access to the Chinese labs. We think that will prove important, to be able to find answers to the questions presented. It is very important to get the answers, and not only is it a historical matter. But also so that we can prevent such a thing from happening again, and we can address ongoing challenges. That is, we can begin to understand the existing virus in a way that we can save lives as we move forward. The world is still suffering from this pandemic and it is time there is transparency and access, such that the world could evaluate this risk and respond to it appropriately, based on good science and good information," he added.

On continued US pressure on Iran, Pompeo indicated that that, "Iran has coronavirus cases like any other country in the world, and America has offered to provide medical and technical assistance to the Iranian people. But Iran's leaders have rejected it, and we are continuing to offer aid, as we have done with many countries around the world. We will continue to work on that. The responsibility to protect peoples falls on the leaders of states, while Iran's leaders continue to assist Shia militias in Iraq and support the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria, and provide assistance and weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, and continue their programme of ballistic missiles, even during the last 48 hours."

"They also continue to send battleships to harass ships of countries sailing in international waters, and they clearly have resources to care for their people. They have to change their priorities to put their people and their health in a higher position than their desire to participate in terrorist campaigns in other countries," Pompeo stated.

The United States, Pompeo said, "will continue to do everything it can to prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining money and wealth to build these programmes.” "Nothing has changed in this framework, and I believe that the whole world can see clearly that the Ayatollahs and leadership in Iran have wealth, resources and capabilities; they have to change their intentions and use their resources to take care of the health and safety of the people."

On President Donald Trump’s announcement that he give orders to the US Navy not to tolerate Iranian naval ships provoking American ships in the Gulf, Pompeo said that, “The president's statement this morning made it clear that we will protect ourselves. Those Iranian ships violated international law. They came too close to our vessels which were operating in international waters. The president has always made it clear that we will do everything we need to do to make sure that our forces are as safe and secure as we can possibly make them."

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