1:21 pm Jan. 16, 2013
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was invited to attend the White House ceremony on guns this afternoon, but couldn't be there because she was on a previously undisclosed trip to Egypt, with a senatorial delegation that met with Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.
In a press release this afternoon, Gillibrand announced that she had pressed Morsi to crack down on arms smuggling in Sinai and confronted him for anti-Semitic rhetoric he's used in the past.
"I was very specific and direct with President Morsi deploring these comments, in addition to addressing Egypt’s relationship with Israel and Egyptian women’s rights," she said in the statement. "I will continue to follow these issues closely.”
Morsi's tenure has been tumultuous since he became the first democratically elected leader in Egypt after the autocratic reign of Hosni Mubarak. Morsi was heavily criticized for an edict he issued saying he would not follow the dictates of some of Egypt's courts, a position he later backed down from.
More recently, the White House denounced Morsi's past comments urging Arabs to “nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred” of Zionists, who he subsequently called “these bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Gillibrand, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, was part of a bipartisan delegation that included John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Blumenthal, John Hoeven, and Chris Coons. The trip was kept secret for security purposes.
Here is her full statement on the trip:
“The incredible and historic change we have witnessed across the region over the last several years requires the United States to closely monitor this transition. I am pleased we had the opportunity to meet with a broad group of Egyptian leaders while here.
“Of primary interest to us is Egypt’s relationship with our country, as well as Israel, and its role in ensuring regional stability and addressing terrorism.
“We have asked President Morsi and Defense Minister Elsisy to increase efforts to stop arms smuggling in the Sinai – this is in Egypt’s interest, as well as the broader region.
“We are very hopeful that Egypt navigates this tumultuous transition in a manner that includes all stakeholders so that Egypt’s people flourish in a stable, democratic country.
“The reports that have recently come to light of President Morsi’s offensive remarks towards Israel and the Jewish people are troublesome and deeply disturbing. I was very specific and direct with President Morsi deploring these comments, in addition to addressing Egypt’s relationship with Israel and Egyptian women’s rights. I will continue to follow these issues closely.”
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