British Foreign Secretary William Hague : "We are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt"

British Foreign Secretary William Hague

In an interview on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday 6 February, Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke about the current situation in Egypt.

Feb 7 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) —- Full transcript :

Andrew Marr: Well I am joined now by the Foreign Secretary William Hague. Welcome Mr Hague.
William Hague (Foreign Secretary): Thank you.

AM: Do you think that President Mubarak should go now?

WH: I don’t think that is for us in another country to say, we have the right to say a couple of things very clearly but I don’t think we have the right to choose Egypt’s President. I think where there is actual repression and where there has been abuse of the internet, trying to take over mobile phone networks, trying to drop concrete blocks on to protestors, there we are allowed to protest. Egypt is an independent country as the Minister there was just saying, but those things we are allowed to protest about anywhere in the world and it is a huge mistake by the authorities in Egypt to indulge in any of that sort of behaviour.

We’re also allowed to say that it’s in our interest to have a stable and democratic future for Egypt and we want Egyptians with different views to be able to sort out their views in a stable democratic way. It’s not our role to say the President must go on a particular day or this individual must be included in the Egyptian Cabinet, so I think we have to keep up the pressure for that orderly transition we’ve called for to visibly take place for people, the real visible and comprehensive change that will bring people together in Egypt.

AM: So what do you mean by transition?

WH: Well clearly there’s going to be a change in Egypt. The President has said he is, there is this huge pent up demand that we’ve seen that released on to the streets for political change and I think for economic change and improvement for the mass of the people in Egypt as well. Now that means getting to that point successfully, peacefully without violence or more disorder or more authoritarian Government, it means some mixture of a Government now in Egypt that is more broadly based, a review of the …

AM: …the Americans for instance are talking about a three headed provisional Government to take over …

WH: Again I don’t think it is for us in other countries the United States or Britain, to lay down the detail …we can’t lay down or enforce the details. Egypt is a sovereign nation. But what does an orderly transition look like, it looks like some mixture of a more broadly based Government that includes people from outside the ruling elite of recent years, an ability to change their constitution so that people can have confidence in a free and fair electoral process that doesn’t necessarily rely on the Parliament of today changing the constitution. It is eighty four per cent dominated by the ruling party.

AM: So …

WH: A clear timetable for elections and change which …

AM: Which could, which could leave Mubarak there until September, that would be all right.

WH: Again, you’re inviting me to arbitrate on when the President should be there…

AM: You see I mean people will say basically are you on the side of the people who are protesting or are you on the side of the Government.  That’s what people are asking.

WH: And we are on the side of a stable democratic future for Egypt. We’re not an Egyptian political party.  We are a country and so the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, we’re all in the same position on this, we want to see those sorts of changes so that Egypt doesn’t fall in to extremism or greater violence or more authoritarian Government.  But we cannot arbitrate on the daily events of that.

AM: So it’s, it’s not like, people have compared it to Eastern Europe when, when the wall was coming down and Governments in the West were able to jump up and down say this is great, we approve of this.  But you are not going to do that in the case of Egypt.

WH: Well it is a form of that because I think what we can say and should say is this is a time of opportunity in the Middle East. There are some important dangers as well and one of those of course is that the Middle East Peace Process becomes now a, a more uncertain matter. But it is, but it is a time of opportunity.

AM: Let me just ask you specifically about that, let me ask you about the peace process because that’s sort of to one side of all of this but it’s hugely connected to what happens to Egypt.

WH: It is huge and, and that is one of our central concerns in foreign policy that the Middle East Peace Process has in any case lost a lot of momentum in recent months …

AM: It’s stuck at the moment isn’t it?

WH: … we’ve been hugely disappointed by the failure of Israel to extend its settlement freeze.  It’s necessary for Israelis and Palestinians to make the compromises that, that are required to get the direct talks back on track.  It’s really necessary for the United States to continue to give strong leadership to the Middle East Peace Process supported by European countries at the same time.  That is an alarm, this comes together as a very alarming development if over the next few months the Middle East Peace Process runs in to the sand.  So I would urge Israelis, Palestinians and the US administration to redouble their efforts to get this back on track.  That, that what’s happening in Egypt shouldn’t be a distraction from the Middle East Peace Process, it underlines the urgency of carrying that forward.

AM: And is this therefore a very dangerous moment for the region?

WH: Well yes for that reason above all it is a dangerous moment, but here we’re coming back to your earlier question about we celebrated the fall of communism…

AM: Well I was going to ask you about the Muslim…

WH: … there is nevertheless of course in, in societies becoming freer and in political space opening up there is the prospect actually of a more stable future for many countries of the Middle East, but they need to be able to develop civil society, political parties, greater freedom of expression. The problem in Egypt is that those things haven’t been developed in recent years and so now they haven’t got an opposition, they haven’t got a strong democratic secular opposition to talk to, to come to an agreement about the future.

AM: To put it, to put it very bluntly, people have said in the past Mubarak may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard and there is a danger when he goes that the Muslim Brotherhood, this very, very long established radical Islamist movement in Egypt will take over. Is that really what underpins your caution?

WH: Well there is a danger of that and that is why it’s not so important when elections happen in Egypt as those elections happening at a time when the great variety of views that you can, that we’ve seen on the streets of Egypt can be properly expressed through political parties. Because if an election was held in Egypt today because they haven’t got the strong opposition democratic parties developed in order to play a real part in that.  So it, it’s the process of change over the coming months that matters more than the precise date of change and elections and that is also part of my answer to your question about, you know, should Mubarak go today, tomorrow or whenever, but it’s the process now that really matters.

AM: What about the Americans though because we’ve had rather astonishing newspaper front pages this morning.  We’ve got an American envoy saying definitely Mubarak is going to stay and should stay until September to manage the transition. And then we’ve had another message through the State Department saying no, no, no that’s not our position, we are talking to Mubarak’s number two and we’re talking about a transition before that.  Have you spoken to Hillary Clinton…

WH: Yes.

AM:  … do you understand, well can you explain to us what they’re up to?

WH:  Yes, yes I was talking to Hillary Clinton and the Prime Minister spoke to President Obama last night. They are in the same position as us, respecting the fact that Egypt is a sovereign country, but saying both in our public comments and in all our private discussions with Egyptian leaders that you are going to have to do more than you’ve done so far realistically looking at it from the outside in order to draw people in Egypt together. And, and we cannot …

AM:  … it’s not the case from your point of view, or from the Americans’ point of view that Mubarak should stay until September to oversee an orderly transition. That’s not the case.

WH: Well we’re not saying he should stay until September, nor are we saying he should resign today.  We’re saying we don’t decide who the President of Egypt is on any given day, but we can make the case for people to show, for the leaders in Egypt now to show that there’s an irrevocable change taking place. You know the reason why the demonstrators in the square in Cairo say Mubarak must go today is they want a sign of irrevocable change…

AM: Yes.

WH: …they want to know it’s not a con.

AM: Not unreasonably.

WH: That there is really something going to happen.

AM: Yeah, exactly.

WH: And, and it is vitally important for those, for the authorities in Egypt to show something is really going to happen through …

AM: But you’re not encouraging him to go.

WH: …so, well we’re saying through some combination of all the possible things that you could do to invite opposition figures in to Government, to review the constitution in a new way. Yes possibly to set up a new co presidency. There are all these options, you in Egypt decide which of those you are going to (indistinct) but you are going to have to do several of those things if you are going to show Egyptians and the world that their legitimate grievances will be responded to and, by the way, while you’re doing that avoid repression, harassment of journalists, abuse of the internet because these things are hugely damaging to Egypt and the wider world and they are wrong in principle. So that is the message of, of Western nations to Egypt and I think to go further than that is to interfere in the sovereign matters of Egypt, to not say as much as that would be not doing our duty to the people there and to our own national interests.

AM: There have been criticisms that the Foreign Office hasn’t been fast enough on its feet when it comes to British tourists in Egypt trying to get home.

WH: Well we’ve been very fast on our feet. We’ve had much greater presence at Cairo Airport than other countries.  As far as I’m aware everybody who has wanted to leave has been able to leave, we’ve chartered two special flights for that. So I’m not getting much criticism from the ground in Egypt. We haven’t changed the travel advice for the Red Sea resorts like Sharm el Sheikh because the situation on the ground there hasn’t changed.  So actually I would like to congratulate our Ambassador and the staff in Cairo who’ve dealt with a very difficult situation extremely well and assisted thousands of people successfully to leave the country.  (*)

Photostream : German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets British Prime Minister David Cameron

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron chat during the 47th Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron at the 47th Munich Security Conference in the southern German city of Munich, February 5, 2011. Merkel called on Egyptians to show patience, saying regime change must be properly organised, citing her own experience in German reunification in 1990. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a panel discussion during the Conference on Security Policy in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits besides Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron during the 47th Conference on Security Policy in Munich February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Jens Meyer/Pool

Full text: David Cameron's Munich speech on segregation, radicalisation and Islamic extremism

Photo provided by Munich Security Conference shows Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivering a speech at the International Conference on Security Policy in Munich, southern Germany, Saturday, Feb 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Munich Security Conference, Kai Moerk)

Feb 6 (KATAKAMI.COM) — British Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered a speech setting out his view on radicalisation and Islamic extremism.

Read the speech  :

Today I want to focus my remarks on terrorism, but first let me address one point. Some have suggested that by holding a strategic defence and security review, Britain is somehow retreating from an activist role in the world. That is the opposite of the truth. Yes, we are dealing with our budget deficit, but we are also making sure our defences are strong. Britain will continue to meet the NATO 2% target for defence spending. We will still have the fourth largest military defence budget in the world. At the same time, we are putting that money to better use, focusing on conflict prevention and building a much more flexible army. That is not retreat; it is hard headed.

Every decision we take has three aims in mind. First, to continue to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan . Second, to reinforce our actual military capability. As Chancellor Merkel’s government is showing right here in Germany, what matters is not bureaucracy, which frankly Europe needs a lot less of, but the political will to build military capability that we need as nations and allies, that we can deliver in the field. Third, we want to make sure that Britain is protected from the new and various threats that we face. That is why we are investing in a national cyber security programme that I know William Hague talked about yesterday, and we are sharpening our readiness to act on counter-proliferation.

But the biggest threat that we face comes from terrorist attacks, some of which are, sadly, carried out by our own citizens. It is important to stress that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group. My country, the United Kingdom , still faces threats from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland . Anarchist attacks have occurred recently in Greece and in Italy , and of course, yourselves in Germany were long scarred by terrorism from the Red Army Faction. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens. Last week at Davos I rang the alarm bell for the urgent need for Europe to recover its economic dynamism, and today, though the subject is complex, my message on security is equally stark. We will not defeat terrorism simply by the action we take outside our borders. Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. Of course, that means strengthening, as Angela has said, the security aspects of our response, on tracing plots, on stopping them, on counter-surveillance and intelligence gathering.

But this is just part of the answer. We have got to get to the root of the problem, and we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of where these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism. We should be equally clear what we mean by this term, and we must distinguish it from Islam. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. Islamist extremism is a political ideology supported by a minority. At the furthest end are those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of Sharia. Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist worldview, including real hostility towards Western democracy and liberal values. It is vital that we make this distinction between religion on the one hand, and political ideology on the other. Time and again, people equate the two. They think whether someone is an extremist is dependent on how much they observe their religion. So, they talk about moderate Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist. We need to be clear: Islamist extremism and Islam are not the same thing.

This highlights, I think, a significant problem when discussing the terrorist threat that we face. There is so much muddled thinking about this whole issue. On the one hand, those on the hard right ignore this distinction between Islam and Islamist extremism, and just say that Islam and the West are irreconcilable – that there is a clash of civilizations. So, it follows: we should cut ourselves off from this religion, whether that is through forced repatriation, favoured by some fascists, or the banning of new mosques, as is suggested in some parts of Europe . These people fuel Islamophobia, and I completely reject their argument. If they want an example of how Western values and Islam can be entirely compatible, they should look at what’s happened in the past few weeks on the streets of Tunis and Cairo : hundreds of thousands of people demanding the universal right to free elections and democracy.

The point is this: the ideology of extremism is the problem; Islam emphatically is not. Picking a fight with the latter will do nothing to help us to confront the former. On the other hand, there are those on the soft left who also ignore this distinction. They lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances, and argue that if only governments addressed these grievances, the terrorism would stop. So, they point to the poverty that so many Muslims live in and say, ‘Get rid of this injustice and the terrorism will end.’ But this ignores the fact that many of those found guilty of terrorist offences in the UK and elsewhere have been graduates and often middle class. They point to grievances about Western foreign policy and say, ‘Stop riding roughshod over Muslim countries and the terrorism will end.’ But there are many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are angry about Western foreign policy, but who don’t resort to acts of terrorism. They also point to the profusion of unelected leaders across the Middle East and say, ‘Stop propping these people up and you will stop creating the conditions for extremism to flourish.’ But this raises the question: if it’s the lack of democracy that is the problem, why are there so many extremists in free and open societies?

Now, I’m not saying that these issues of poverty and grievance about foreign policy are not important. Yes, of course we must tackle them. Of course we must tackle poverty. Yes, we must resolve the sources of tension, not least in Palestine , and yes, we should be on the side of openness and political reform in the Middle East . On Egypt , our position should be clear. We want to see the transition to a more broadly-based government, with the proper building blocks of a free and democratic society. I simply don’t accept that there is somehow a dead end choice between a security state on the one hand, and an Islamist one on the other. But let us not fool ourselves. These are just contributory factors. Even if we sorted out all of the problems that I have mentioned, there would still be this terrorism. I believe the root lies in the existence of this extremist ideology. I would argue an important reason so many young Muslims are drawn to it comes down to a question of identity.

What I am about to say is drawn from the British experience, but I believe there are general lessons for us all. In the UK , some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries. But these young men also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.

So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. Now for sure, they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see – and what we see in so many European countries – is a process of radicalisation.

Internet chatrooms are virtual meeting places where attitudes are shared, strengthened and validated. In some mosques, preachers of hate can sow misinformation about the plight of Muslims elsewhere. In our communities, groups and organisations led by young, dynamic leaders promote separatism by encouraging Muslims to define themselves solely in terms of their religion. All these interactions can engender a sense of community, a substitute for what the wider society has failed to supply. Now, you might say, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, what is the problem with all this?

Well, I’ll tell you why. As evidence emerges about the backgrounds of those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’, and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence. And I say this is an indictment of our approach to these issues in the past. And if we are to defeat this threat, I believe it is time to turn the page on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we – as governments and as societies – have got to confront it, in all its forms. And second, instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.

Let me briefly take each in turn. First, confronting and undermining this ideology. Whether they are violent in their means or not, we must make it impossible for the extremists to succeed. Now, for governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this. We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must also proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. Governments must also be shrewder in dealing with those that, while not violent, are in some cases part of the problem. We need to think much harder about who it’s in the public interest to work with. Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement. So we should properly judge these organisations: do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separation? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations – so, no public money, no sharing of platforms with ministers at home.

At the same time, we must stop these groups from reaching people in publicly-funded institutions like universities or even, in the British case, prisons. Now, some say, this is not compatible with free speech and intellectual inquiry. Well, I say, would you take the same view if these were right-wing extremists recruiting on our campuses? Would you advocate inaction if Christian fundamentalists who believed that Muslims are the enemy were leading prayer groups in our prisons? And to those who say these non-violent extremists are actually helping to keep young, vulnerable men away from violence, I say nonsense.

Would you allow the far right groups a share of public funds if they promise to help you lure young white men away from fascist terrorism? Of course not. But, at root, challenging this ideology means exposing its ideas for what they are, and that is completely unjustifiable. We need to argue that terrorism is wrong in all circumstances. We need to argue that prophecies of a global war of religion pitting Muslims against the rest of the world are nonsense.

Now, governments cannot do this alone. The extremism we face is a distortion of Islam, so these arguments, in part, must be made by those within Islam. So let us give voice to those followers of Islam in our own countries – the vast, often unheard majority – who despise the extremists and their worldview. Let us engage groups that share our aspirations.

Now, second, we must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.

There are practical things that we can do as well. That includes making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensuring that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. Back home, we’re introducing National Citizen Service: a two-month programme for sixteen-year-olds from different backgrounds to live and work together. I also believe we should encourage meaningful and active participation in society, by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people. That way, common purpose can be formed as people come together and work together in their neighbourhoods. It will also help build stronger pride in local identity, so people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Londonder or a Berliner too’. It’s that identity, that feeling of belonging in our countries, that I believe is the key to achieving true cohesion.

So, let me end with this. This terrorism is completely indiscriminate and has been thrust upon us. It cannot be ignored or contained; we have to confront it with confidence – confront the ideology that drives it by defeating the ideas that warp so many young minds at their root, and confront the issues of identity that sustain it by standing for a much broader and generous vision of citizenship in our countries.

Now, none of this will be easy. We will need stamina, patience and endurance, and it won’t happen at all if we act alone. This ideology crosses not just our continent but all continents, and we are all in this together. At stake are not just lives, it is our way of life. That is why this is a challenge we cannot avoid; it is one we must rise to and overcome.

Thank you.  (*)

Source : NUMBER 10 GOV.UK

British Foreign Secretary comments on violence in Egypt

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague said that real and visible change, needs to take place, and needs to begin now.

Feb 3 (KATAKAMI / FCO.GOV.UK) — Speaking today on BBC Radio 4 the Foreign Secretary said:

“We want a stable and democratic country in Egypt, that’s what’s in the national interest of the United Kingdom. An orderly transition to a broadly based Government of free and fair elections, to real and visible change, needs to take place, and it needs to begin now so that they can work out those differences for themselves in a sovereign nation, having their arguments with each other but in a peaceful way. We continue to place the pressure on them to get on with that as rapidly as possible.”

On reports that the regime sponsored violence against protestors the Foreign Secretary said:

“I don’t have any evidence either way, but if it turns out that the regime in Egypt has in any way sponsored violence against peaceful protest that would be totally unacceptable. In the last hour I’ve spoken to the President’s son, Gamal Mubarak, on the telephone and said that if it turned out that there was state sponsored violence here that would be catastrophic for Egypt and for those who are in Government now.”

“We’ll continue to work with our partners in the EU and with the United States to try to push things in the right direction.”



British PM David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemn Egypt violence

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) greets U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he arrives at number 10 Downing Street, in London February 2, 2011.

London, Feb 2 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10 GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Downing Street for bilateral talks.

Speaking to journalists outside Number 10, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General condemned the violence taking place in Egypt today and urged restraint.

The PM said it would be “completely and utterly unacceptable” if the Egyptian authorities were found to be behind the violence. He called for the transition to a broader and more democratic government “to be accelerated and happen quickly”.

He said:

“These are despicable scenes that we’re seeing and they should not be repeated.  They underline the need for political reform and, frankly, for that political reform to be accelerated and to happen quickly.

“We need to see a clear road map for that political reform so that people in Egypt can have confidence that their aspirations for a more democratic future with greater rights is met, and that change needs to start happening now and the violence needs to stop.”

Mr Ban said he was “deeply concerned” about the violence and that the danger of instability across the Middle East should not be understimated. He called for all sides in the dispute to engage in an “orderly and peaceful transition”.

Clashes have taken place thoughout the day in Cairo’s Tahrir Square between anti-government protesters and apparent supporters of the incumbent President Mubarak.

Last night President Mubarak vowed to oversee a transition to a broader-based government and not to stand in September’s elections following several days of demonstrations. (*)

British Foreign Secretary updates on situation in Egypt

William Hague

Jan 31 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK)  — Foreign Secretary William Hague has travelled to Brussels where he will discuss the situation in Egypt with EU Foreign Ministers.

The Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. We recommend that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means where it is safe to do so.

The Foreign Secretary advised British nationals either in or considering travelling to Egypt to check the Foreign Office advice closely and keep in touch with tour operators. He said that the Red Sea resorts have been calm.

“We’ve heard from our Honorary Consul there this morning and the situation remains the same and remains calm, we’ve worked on contingency plans with the tour operators should the situation there change. The problems are much greater in Cairo and Alexandria and Suez. In particular there are problems getting people through Cairo Airport and so we have sent our own Rapid Deployment Team there. We have staff working very hard there to assist British nationals in an orderly and practical way to be able to leave the country.”

The Foreign Secretary said he was concerned that violence would continue over the next few days.

“We’ve stated those concerns to the Egyptian Government. We’ve asked them to avoid violence in dealing with demonstrations. Equally we call on the Egyptian people to demonstrate without resort to violence”.

On the international response, the Foreign Secretary said:

“We’ve been in close touch with our colleagues in the United States. The Prime Minister talked to President Obama and I talked to Secretary Clinton last night and together we have called for an orderly Egyptian led transition to real and visible reform, to a more broadly based Government, to free and fair elections in Egypt. This reform is the way forward – not repression – and I’m now on my way to Brussels to discuss all of this with the EU Foreign Ministers and hopefully to achieve an agreed position for the whole of the European Union, all twenty seven nations, similar to the one we’ve agreed with the United States.”

Earlier today Prime Minister David Cameron said Egypt “must go down the path of reform and not repression… we want the response of the Egyptian government to be… a proper, orderly transition to a more democratic situation where there are greater rights, greater freedoms, a better rule of law, and that sort of reform to show to people in Egypt that their concerns and their aspirations are being listened to… We are not saying who should run this country or that country, but… in the conversations we’ve had with President Mubarak and others, I think it’s sensible to say that you do have a choice here”.

He commented that the Egyptian government should explain to the people that “we hear your concerns, we understand your aspirations, we know you want greater rights, greater freedom, greater democracy, and we’re going to have an orderly transition in Egypt to give you that”.

Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt will be giving a statement to Parliament today at 15.30 (UK time). The statement can be viewed live on the Parliament website.


British Prime Minister David Cameron calls for Egypt reform

FILE : British Prime Minister David Cameron

Jan 30 (KATAKAMI.COM / NUMBER 10.GOV.UK) — David Cameron has voiced his support for “reform and progress” in Egypt and expressed his hope that the violence of recent days will subside.

Speaking to US broadcaster CNN, the Prime Minister said that real democracy was about more than the holding of elections and required “building blocks” to be put in place to create a country that is “democratic, strong, accountable”.

The Prime Minister said:

“I think what we need is reform in Egypt. I mean we support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of their democracy and civil rights and the rule of law. Clearly there are grievances that people have and they need to be met and matched.

“I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest that people are being killed on the streets of Egypt as we speak at the moment and so I hope the violence will cease. But clearly, when you have people who have grievances and problems that want them responded to, it’s in all our interests that these countries have stronger rule of law, stronger rights, stronger democracy.”

Yesterday Foreign Secretary William Hague called upon the Egyptian government to “respond positively to legitimate demands for reform” and to respect the rights of people to free assembly and freedom of expression.  (*)

Joint UK-France-Germany statement on Egypt

Jan 30 (KATAKAMI.COM / NUMBER 10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a joint statement with President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany on the situation in Egypt.

In the statement the three leaders call for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to display moderation and avoid the use of violence against protesters. They also ask that respect be shown for human rights and democratic freedoms and call for the holding of free and fair elections.

The Prime Minister also spoke in person to President Mubarak on Saturday, urging him to accelerate political reform and build democratic legitimacy.

A joint statement by Prime Minister David Cameron, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel on the situation in Egypt.

Read the statement :

“We are deeply concerned about the events that we are witnessing in Egypt. We recognise the moderating role President Mubarak has played over many years in the Middle East. We now urge him to show the same moderation in addressing the current situation in Egypt.

“We call on President Mubarak to avoid at all costs the use of violence against unarmed civilians, and on the demonstrators to exercise their rights peacefully.

“It is essential that the further political, economic and social reforms President Mubarak has promised are implemented fully and quickly and meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

“There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the internet, and the right of peaceful assembly.

“The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future. We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections.”  (*)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague visits Syria

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague

Jan 27 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Foreign Secretary William Hague will discuss a range of issues including the political situation in Lebanon, the current state of the Middle East Peace Process and Iran’s nuclear programme during his visit to Syria.

During the visit he will hold talks with President Assad and Foreign Minister Muallem. The Foreign Secretary will hold a roundtable with Elizabeth White, the British Council’s Director and senior Syrian women.

The Foreign Secretary will have dinner with key commercial, civil society and non official Syrian members of society.  (*)

Source : FCO.GOV.UK

British Foreign Secretary on protests in Egypt

William Hague

Jan 26 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) — Foreign Secretary William Hague urges the Egyptian Government and demonstrators to seek a peaceful way forward.

“We deeply regret the loss of life in the Egyptian protests. All parties should show restraint and avoid violence. It is important that the government listens to the concerns of those demonstrating and respects rights of freedom of assembly and expression. Openness, transparency and political freedom are important tenets of stability. We urge the government and demonstrators to seek a peaceful way forward.

We have updated our travel advice for Egypt to reflect recent developments. This advises people to avoid political gatherings and demonstrations. We will be keeping the advice under constant review.”  (*)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague urges rapid return to law and order in Tunisia

William Hague

Jan 15 (KATAKAMI.COM / FCO.GOV.UK) — Foreign Secretary William Hague calls for restraint from all sides and an orderly move towards free and fair elections.

“I condemn the violence and call on the Tunisian authorities to do all they can to resolve the situation peacefully.  I am calling for a rapid return to law and order, restraint from all sides, an orderly move towards free and fair elections and an immediate expansion of political freedoms in Tunisia.

Our Embassy in Tunis is providing help and assistance to the UK citizens affected. Britons worried about travel to Tunisia should check the FCO’s travel advice, which is kept under constant review.

Our advice to concerned British Nationals is to follow developments closely and stay in touch with their tour operator. They should respect advice or instructions given by the local security authorities and tour operators and avoid rallies and demonstrations.”  (*)

British to renew Australian defence ties

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague


Jan 14 (KATAKAMI.COM / THE AGE.COM.AU) — British Foreign Secretary William Hague says his nation has neglected its relationship with Australia during the past two decades.

Mr Hague will join UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox, as well as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defence Minister Stephen Smith, in Sydney next Tuesday for the third Australia-UK ministerial talks, known as AUKMIN.

It will be the first visit to Australia by British cabinet ministers since David Cameron’s government took office in May.

Mr Hague said on his video blog Britain needed a strong relationship with “dynamic economies” such as Australia and New Zealand, which will host the two ministers late next week.

But the previous Blair and Brown Labor governments had neglected the relationship, with the last foreign secretary to visit being Douglas Hurd in 1994.

“I will be the first (British) foreign secretary for nearly 20 years to go to Australia,” Mr Hague said.

“So I think there has been a little bit of ministerial neglect that we are going to put right.”

Mr Hague said his top priority was the mission in Afghanistan, which involves 9500 British and 1550 Australian troops.

“Right at the top of the list is our work in Afghanistan to improve security and hopefully to bring to Afghan leadership a political process alongside the military work to bring lasting security and stability,” he said.

The talks also will focus on three other issues: changing power dynamics in Asia, particularly China; strategic cooperation, including intelligence sharing, cyberspace and the relationship with the US; and global counter-terrorism.

There is also expected to be a discussion over lunch on national security structures, the Middle East and Iran and nuclear proliferation.

The meeting is not expected to approve a new cooperation treaty but a number of defence documents will be signed, sources close to the talks say.

It will be the first AUKMIN to be held in Australia, with the previous one held in Leeds in November 2008. (*)


British Deputy PM welcomes £2.6bn agreements between UK and China

Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang

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London, Jan 11 (KATAKAMI / DPM.CabinetOffice.Gov.UK) — Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has welcomed Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to London following his visit to Edinburgh yesterday.

Official talks took place at Lancaster House, after which the Deputy PM and Vice Premier Li witnessed the signing of agreements with an estimated value of £2.6 billion, which will further strengthen ties with China.

The talks covered global issues including international security and climate change in which the UK and China work closely together.

Co-operation on conservation and culture were also on the agenda, with China agreeing to gift a breeding pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo for ten years. The arrival of Tian Tian and Yuangguang will boost research, conservation and tourism in Scotland and the UK.

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (standing 7th, L) speaks with China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang during a trade signing ceremony at Lancaster House on January 10, 2011 in London, Enlgand. Mr Li, who is widely tipped to become Chinese Premier next year, has already visited Germany and France during his European visit to strengthen business links. Mr Li and a delegation of 150 business and political representatives are also due to hold talks with the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later today. (Photo by Paul Hackett - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Mr Clegg said:

It is a pleasure to welcome Vice-Premier Li and the accompanying Chinese delegation to the UK. We had successful talks covering a range of issues, and we witnessed the signing of a number of agreements, including commercial deals with an estimated contract value of at least £2.6 billion.

“This week’s visits, and the agreements we have seen today, follow the Prime Minister’s successful delegation to China in November, demonstrating the momentum we are building together towards even stronger relations. The kind gift of a loan of a breeding pair of giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yuangguang, is a sign that we can co-operate closely on a broad range of environmental and cultural issues, as well as commerce.

“Together, today’s deals will safeguard 700 jobs in the UK and are estimated to have the potential to create many more.”

Agreements signed today include a commitment by Jaguar Land Rover to increase sales to China. Jaguar Land Rover Chief Executive Officer Dr Ralf Speth, who attended the ceremony said:

This commitment to sales in China in 2011 of some 40,000 Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles with a value in excess of £1 billion not only signals the acceleration of our growth plans but also reflects both the importance of the Chinese market to Jaguar Land Rover and our value to the UK economy.

BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed an agreement on deepwater exploration in the South China Sea.

The China National Petroleum Company and INEOS signed two agreements today. INEOS Chairman Jim Ratcliffe said:

We look forward to the success of this joint venture with the China National Petroleum Company. The agreement will further investment in our refineries, in France and the UK, ensuring their competitiveness in European markets, and securing jobs and skills in the UK and France. It will be hugely beneficial. Here in the UK, its success at our Grangemouth site will directly support 1,400 jobs at the site and indirectly around 7,000 jobs in central Scotland. We also look forward to mutual benefit in China through our agreement on technology sharing.

List of agreements

The full list of agreements signed today is as follows:

An agreement was signed on the terms of cooperation in the protection of and research into Giant Pandas between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA).

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation on low carbon.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the NDRC signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation.

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the China Development Bank (CDB) signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation.

BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) signed an agreement.

INEOS Group and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signed a framework agreement.

INEOS Group and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signed a strategic partnership deal.

Jaguar Land Rover and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive Trading (Shanghai) signed a letter of intent.

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) and the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME) signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation.

Zodiac Maritime Agencies Ltd. and the Export and Import Bank of China signed an agreement.

The China Development Bank and HSBC signed a memorandum of understanding.

The China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), Beijing International Brand Management Centre and Beijing Chaoyang District signed a memorandum of understanding.

A cooperation agreement was signed between China Nonferrous Metals International Mining (CNMIM) and Kryso Resources plc (UK).

Soho Data Holdings Company Ltd and Xiking Culture Centre Media Beijing Company Ltd signed an investment agreement for the Soho Data Centre project.

Shanghai Haobo Chair (UK) Company signed an agreement to buy a 45% equity stake in ES UK Group.  (*)

British PM David Cameron welcomes Chinese Vice-Premier to Number 10

China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang (2nd, R) attends a round table discussion with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) at Downing Street on January 10, 2011 in London. Mr Li, who is widely tipped to become Chinese Premier next year, has already visited Germany and France during his European visit to strengthen business links. Mr Li and a delegation of 150 business and political representatives are also due to hold talks with the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg later today. (Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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London, Jan 10 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang to Number 10 as part of a four-day visit to the UK.

The PM said the Vice-Premier’s visit would “build on the momentum” from his trip to Beijing last year and offered a real opportunity for Britain in terms of trade, jobs and economic growth.

Earlier today, Deputy PM Nick Cleggheld bilateral talks with Vice-Premier Li and attended a signing ceremony at Lancaster House where the two countries signed agreements with an estimated value of £2.6 billion.

Mr Clegg said that the agreements signed by British and Chinese companies would safeguard 700 jobs in the UK, with the potential to create many more.

Other agreements included cooperation in the protection of and research into Giant Pandas between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) which will see the loan of a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo. (*)


Trade deals and pandas after Britain-China talks

A photo provided by Adelaide Zoo shows a panda. Britain and China have signed trade deals worth £2.6 billion pounds and announced Beijing will loan a pair of pandas to Edinburgh Zoo for 10 years. (Adelaide Zoo/File/Dave Mattner)

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LONDON, Jan 11 (KATAKAMI / AFP) – Britain and China have signed trade deals worth £2.6 billion and announced Beijing will loan a pair of giant pandas to Edinburgh Zoo for 10 years.

The agreements were inked during talks in London between Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Britain has rolled out the red carpet for Li, who is widely tipped to become Chinese premier next year, as it scrambles to catch up with European rivals Germany and France in landing business deals with booming China.

On the second day of his visit to Britain on Monday, Li also held talks with Prime Minister David Cameron.

On Tuesday he will receive a royal welcome from Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and will make a speech at a banquet organised by the British Council.

The trade agreements include a commitment by Jaguar Land Rover to increase sales of vehicles in China to the 40,000 mark this year in a deal which the automaker said was worth £1bln.

“We had successful talks covering a range of issues, and we witnessed the signing of a number of agreements, including commercial deals with an estimated contract value of at least 2.6 billion pounds,” Clegg said.

In other deals, BP and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation signed an agreement on deepwater exploration in the South China Sea.

China's Vice Premier Li Keqiang, right, listens to Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at Lancaster House in London, Monday Jan. 10, 2011. Vice Premier Li Keqiang met with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to sign commercial deals worth at least 2.6 billion pounds ($4 billion) - but the business dealings were overshadowed by a deal to loan pandas. Li oversaw an agreement to bring a breeding pair of pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland, on a 10-year loan. Seven-year-old male Yangguang and female Tian Tian - which translate as "Sunshine" and "Sweetie" - are expected to arrive in the coming year from China's Wulong Panda Research Institute. (AP Photo/Paul Hackett, pool)

Petro-chemical group INEOS agreed to work more closely with China National Petroleum Corporation, which the British company said would lead to increased investment in its refineries in Britain and France.

The talks also covered international security and climate change “in which the UK and China work closely together”, a British government statement said.

It was also announced that China will loan a breeding pair of giant pandas — named Tian Tian and Yuangguang, which translates to Sweetie and Sunshine — to Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland for 10 years.

The pair, born in 2003, will be the first pandas in Britain for 17 years and the move “will boost research, conservation and tourism in Scotland and the UK”, the statement said.

The project is the result of five years of high-level political and diplomatic negotiation.

“Pandas are a Chinese national treasure. This historical agreement is a gift to the people of the UK from China,” said Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming.

“It will represent an important symbol of our friendship and will bring our two people closer together.”

Li has already visited Spain and Germany on his European visit, accompanied by a 150-strong business and political delegation.

Writing in the Financial Times on Monday, he said the world should not fear a rapidly growing China.

China’s development benefits other countries,” Li wrote. “We welcome the entry into our market of competitive goods and services from around the world, and will provide a fair and even more transparent environment for foreign investors.”

Li added that “reform and opening-up are the driving forces behind our development”, but warned that “China’s development will not be possible without the world — and world development needs China”.

The visit follows Cameron’s trip to China in November, when he was the first Western leader to visit the country since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

While he did not publicly confront Chinese leaders over human rights, Cameron used a speech to university students to call for “greater political opening” as the Chinese economy surges forward.

Deputy premier Clegg has insisted that “no subject will be off limits” during the talks in the four-day British visit.

Cameron’s Beijing visit produced deals worth around one billion pounds to British companies. In contrast, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to France in November yielded 20 billion dollars of contracts.  (*)

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