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Foreign Secretary discusses Middle East and North Africa in Parliament

Foreign Secretary William Hague opened a debate on the UK's policy on the Middle East and North Africa in the House of Commons today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the Middle East has been a “central preoccupation” in foreign affairs:

“It is vital to our security, to our economy, and many of the greatest challenges in foreign affairs including nuclear proliferation, terrorism, religious extremism and piracy, are all present in the region. The search for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians alone has demanded more international attention and effort than any other single international issue for most of the last sixty years”

Speaking about the situation in the Middle East the Foreign Secretary said:

“An unprecedented wave of change is now sweeping across the Arab world, triggering a series of simultaneous crises. Almost every Middle Eastern country has been affected at the same time by demands for greater political openness and democratic freedom. In Egypt and Tunisia it has led to new governments, interim governments, and the hope of a more democratic future. In Libya legitimate protest has been followed by bloody civil strife at the hands of a government willing to countenance any loss of life in order to cling to power.”

“Each of the nations involved has a distinct culture, political system and level of economic development, so whatever their future holds there will be no single model for all of them. However there is clearly a common hunger for justice, accountability, political rights and economic opportunity since the overwhelming majority of the demonstrations that we have seen have been peaceful and staged spontaneously by ordinary citizens.

The Foreign Secretary said that the UK’s message to all governments of the region is that without change popular grievances will not go away:

“The right to peaceful protest must be respected and responded to with dialogue.”

The debate continues, and is being live streamed on the Parliament website.

A transcript will follow shortly after.

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Published 17 March 2011