By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with Egyptian leaders here today as part of a visit officials said is designed to reaffirm U.S. support and advance the nations` defense partnership.
It`s always a pleasure to be back in this vibrant and historic city, " Gates said, especially during a time of monumental promise and change both in Egypt and elsewhere in the region. "
America`s historic relationship with Egypt is a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, Gates said. The U.S.-Egyptian military partnership has grown over 30 years, he added, and it is an integral part of the way our two countries pursue our common interests and advance stability in an often tumultuous region. "
Rapid change in the region holds potential new opportunities for the United States, Gates said.
I would point to the longstanding relationship between the United States military and the Egyptian military and the constructive role the Egyptian military has played in the events of the past couple of months, " he said.
For existing governments that undertake a process of reform and that we work with today, those relationships will continue, " Gates added. And I think where change is underway we may have even greater opportunities. "
After his meeting today with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and other Egyptian officials, Gates said the leaders do see a need for economic assistance, not just from us, but from all their friends. " The Egyptian leaders see the connection between political progress and people seeing concrete improvements in the quality of their lives, which means a growing economy, the secretary added.
The key here is the stability that the Supreme Council has brought and the naming of the interim government that we hope in the short term will allow for a return of the tourist trade, which is an important source of income, " Gates said.
As private industry observers see a process of democratization going forward, he added, they will see opportunities for investment in Egypt, which is at the end of the day, both inside Egypt and from external investment, the long-term solution to their economic problems. "
Gates will meet tomorrow with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the nation`s commander in chief and chairman of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.