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Remarks by Secretary Esper at an Event in Honor of Egyptian Minister of Defense General Zaki

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DR. MARK T. ESPER:  General Zaki, welcome to the Pentagon.  It is a pleasure to have you and your team with us here today.

As you mentioned, you are the first counterpart I have hosted since I was appointed as secretary of defense, which is very fitting, given the longstanding ties between our two militaries.

The United States' and Egypt's strategic relationship is a top priority for this administration and for this department.  I look forward to continuing our militaries' close partnership across a wide range of issues.

Counterterrorism is one of those enduring issues, and I'd like to offer my sincere condolences for the recent losses sustained by your forces responding to terrorist attacks in the Sinai.

I especially welcome your insights today on how we can expand our counterterrorism cooperation.  And more broadly, I look forward to hearing your views on regional security, including Libya and Iran.

General Zaki, Egypt has a powerful voice and we welcome your efforts to support stability across the region.

Thank you again for traveling to meet with me today.  I'm looking forward to our conversation.

Now, I invite you to make a few remarks for the press.

EGYPTIAN MINISTER OF DEFENSE GENERAL MOHAMED ZAKI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR):  Now, thank you, Mr. Secretary, Dr. Mark Esper.  And we (inaudible) to give each other a short welcome and then we’ll start our discussions.

Once again, I do apologize for speaking in Arabic, but my colleague is going to assume this mission of translation.

Dr. Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, ladies and gentlemen of the U.S. delegation. Once again I'd like to extend my thanks and appreciation for organizing and hosting this important meeting, which actually coincides with the extensive complexity of the deteriorating security environment in the Middle East.  And in addition to the need to more coordination and understanding, in order to reach out to a joint perspective over handling the security issues.

We do recognize, always, that the mil-to-mil relations between Egypt and the United States represent the first line of defense in maintaining the strategic overall relations between the two countries.

Actually, there’s a constant fact that Egypt and the United States, maintaining a strategic relationship, historical one.  And that's why it's difficult to change the equation of such relations, that they are mainly based in two main categories.

The first one is the mutual recognition that there is a package of interests, goals and joint commandments that we need to maintain, including the -- the U.S. support in building and developing the Egyptian military capabilities, and employing such capabilities in order to be a guarantee for realizing regional security and stability.

The second constant fact is now the representative and the strategic location that Egypt has, in addition to the gravity of its role in the Arab, African and Islamic circles as a force and a power supportive of the dissemination of the culture of peace, and a cornerstone in the equation of the regional security.

In addition to securing the U.S. targets and the -- and the U.S. interests, as well in the Middle East, which mainly helps with the requirements of the Egyptian national security.

Undoubtedly, there are military requirements and priorities for the plans of the two countries, in order to get rid of these terrorist networks.  Including the (inaudible) organized crime in the Middle East, which has become a threat to the security and stability of our communities.

This is in addition to handling the difficulties and complexities of the main issues that really guarantee and ensure the realization of our goals for peaceful coexistence in between all communities in the region.

It is quite important to address the remarkable development in the military and security cooperation fields between the two countries, and the shared expertise that we have in terms of the joint exercises, in addition to the intelligence exercises in the field of counterterrorism to open horizons for new cooperation that will merely improve -- or actually improve the security environment in the Middle East, and also for restoring security and regional stability.

And turning to the domestic situation inside Egypt, as it was in Egypt during the -- the last -- there's only six years, we have really witnessed unprecedented achievements in order to maintain the unity of the community, all the fabric of the community against disintegration, in addition to denying the extension or the expansion of the state of chaos being witnessed in a number of regional countries, in addition to establishing the pillars of real institutions -- state institutions built on a basis of democracy and the respect of law, in parallel with continuing the economic reform plan and pushing forward comprehensive development efforts all over the country.

And as the security leveled, the Egyptian state has been able to realize most of the objectives of the comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 in order to impose full control over the security situation and all the strategic directions of the country and securing the state borders.  Since we are merely pursuing, chasing and also confining the terrorist spots, especially in northern/eastern Sinai, in addition to defying the organized crime acts such as the infiltration of terrorist elements and the mafia of weapon smuggling through the western and the southern borders of the Arab Republic of Egypt.

This part has been achieved of the -- at the regional and the foreign levels, as well.  The Egyptian state is still -- or is -- is countering, furthering an -- an increase in challenges and threats in view of the deteriorating security environment encircling Egypt from all strategic directions.  The matter that we are looking forward to the support of our partners, and mainly the United States, in order to enhance our military and security capabilities in a way to overcome the security challenges that we face, and also to assume our responsibility in sharing to the -- restore security and regional stability.

And finally, I'd like to reiterate my thanks, my appreciation to you and to all the commanders in the Pentagon for holding this meeting.  And I hope that we'll be able to realize the objectives that we are looking forward to reach in a way that enhances the joint interests, in addition to the ethical and humanitarian responsibility that we have in order, to get rid of the evil of terrorism and organized crime, in addition to lessening the -- the level of security tension in the -- in the region in order for the -- all the countries to enjoy peace and security.

And finally, I wish you always the best in carrying out your mission and your responsibilities in order to realize the requirements of justice and peace.

Thank you.

SEC. ESPER:  Thank you very much, General.  Thank you.


STAFF:  Thank you, press.  That'll be all.