Thursday, 27 January 2011

Events in Egypt attract international commentary

The White House evoked President Barack Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo. It said, citing freedom of speech, a say in government and the rule of law, "What is happening in the region reminds us that, as the president said in Cairo, we have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things."

In his State of the Union address on 25th January, Obama declared that the US stood with Tunisia "where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator". His officials were quick to explain he was not calling for all Arab leaders to be overthrown.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also chose a middle way between support for Egypt and a call for some reform, saying, “We support the universal right of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.”

One of the toughest comments came from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who said he was "extremely concerned" and called on all involved to show restraint. "We are seeing in the last few weeks that a country's stability is not endangered by granting civil rights. It is through the refusal of civil and human rights that societies become unstable," he said in reference to Tunisia.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a radio interview that it was not for other countries to dictate who should be in power, or what their tactics should be. He added, Clearly, in so many of these countries people do have legitimate grievances, which are economic and political. While every country is different, and we shouldn't try to dictate what they should do, in general I do think it's important in this situation to respond positively to legitimate demands for reform, to move towards openness, transparency and greater political freedom. That would be my advice to Egyptian leaders.

"I would urge the Egyptian government, and I have urged the Egyptian government, to respect rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. It would be futile over time to try to suppress such things.”

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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