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Foreign Secretary calls for swift return to democratic processes in Egypt

Foreign Secretary: The UK does not support military interventions to settle disputes in democratic systems.

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The Foreign Secretary William Hague

The Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke to media this morning about the situation in Egypt, he said:

Our first duty of course and our first concern is the welfare of British nationals in Egypt. Our travel advice is clear, we continue to advise against all but essential travel to the main urban concentrations in Egypt and for British nationals who are there to consider if they have a pressing need to remain.

The Red Sea resorts are fine such as Sharm El Sheikh and that is where most British tourists visit. Those have not had any serious incidents, airports are operating normally, flights are going in and out normally. But we have sent a rapid deployment team of additional diplomats to reinforce our embassy in Cairo, they will be able to give additional support to British nationals in case of need.

So we’re watching that very closely. I discussed it with our Ambassador in Cairo during the night, we will send whatever further support is necessary and keep people updated about that.

On the wider situation, as I’ve made clear, the UK does not support military interventions to settle disputes in democratic systems but we have to look forward. This has happened, I’ve just discussed the situation in the last few minutes with the Foreign Minister of Egypt and in our view there are now three very important things. One is that there is a swift return to democratic processes. He has assured me there will be early presidential elections and I have made the point that we regard it and many other countries will regard it as important that those elections are totally free and fair, that everyone is able to compete in them. And that means the early release of political leaders and journalists who have been arrested so that they can take part in those elections. Human rights must be upheld and restored.

The second thing that needs to happen in our view is that Egypt’s political leaders find the way to work together in a way they haven’t over the last year to agree a constitution, an electoral law, the checks and balances of a democratic system that respects minorities as well as majority government so that Egyptians can have confidence in their political future.

And the third thing in our view is that the interim government and a new civilian government take urgent economic steps. Egypt is a country of eighty five million people with immense economic challenges. One of the things that hasn’t been achieved over the last year is sufficient decisiveness and action to improve their economic situation and, and we of course stand ready to assist with our expertise, advice and other assistance as best we can.

In the long run it’s democratic institutions that bring stability to countries anywhere in the world but particularly in North Africa. So we will continue to argue for those things to be created in Egypt.

The Foreign Secretary was asked: Can you have any confidence in future elections after a democratically elected leader has been the subject of a military coup and is there any further action that the UK Government is going to be taking?

The Foreign Secretary said:

The further action we’re taking is what I’ve just described. We are directly in touch with Egyptian Ministers and, of course, we will have many contacts with the authorities over the coming days and weeks arguing for the things that I have just been describing; political democratic processes, political agreements on the constitution, economic progress. These are the things that we and many other countries, other European countries and the United States, will be arguing for.

It is the problem with a military intervention of course that it is a precedent for the future and that if this can happen to one elected president it can happen to another in the future and that’s why it’s so important to entrench democratic institutions and for political leaders, for all their sakes and the sake of their country, to work on this together to find the compromises that they haven’t been able to make in Egypt over the last year.

Now we can’t lay that down from outside, no other country can decide on that only Egyptian leaders can put that together but we hope they will do so. Okay thank you very much indeed.

Further information

Read the Foreign Secretary’s 3 July statement on Egypt

Read the Foreign Office travel advice for Egypt

Visit the UK in Egypt website page

Listen to the Foreign Secretary speaking on the BBC radio 4 Today program about Egypt

Follow the Foreign Office on twitter @foreignoffice

Follow the Foreign Office on facebook and Google+

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Published 4 July 2013