William Hague remains optimistic despite deaths in Egypt

 

Violent clashes in Egypt that killed at least 13 protesters over the weekend should not dampen optimism about the so-called "Arab Spring", Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

Britons have been warned to avoid Cairo's Tahrir Square - the focus for the pro-democracy movement earlier this year but now the scene of renewed clashes with the security forces.

Thousands of demonstrators are involved in a face-off with riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets amid fears the country's military elite will not relinquish their power.

Mr Hague said the military should remain in charge to oversee elections, due to begin next week, but they should be followed by "the speediest possible transition to civilian democratic rule".

He also called on the military to end the present state of emergency, release detained protesters and stop trying them in military courts - as well as taking action to boost the economy.

"They should do all of those things. But I think it is important that they oversee the elections that are now taking place and that... are meant to produce the assembly which comes up with a new constitution," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We want to see the completion of transfer to civilian rule, we do want to see a constitution that is widely accepted, we do want to see robust guarantees of human rights, including the accountability of security forces, enshrined in future laws.

"It is very important that elections take place and that then there is the speediest possible transition to civilian democratic rule in Egypt. There are many things the military rulers in Egypt need to do."

The deaths and injuries were "of great concern", he said, but he took issue with the idea that it undermined hopes that the wave of protests in the region would usher in more democratic governments.

"We do have these problems in Egypt but elections are about to take place and we have seen successful elections in Tunisia, a new government is now being formed in Libya, important reforms are taking place in Morocco and Jordan.

"And so we should remain on the optimistic side of what is happening in the Arab Spring, albeit there will be many conflicts and difficulties on the way."

Mr Hague said he was meeting Syrian opposition groups in London today but the UK was not yet able to formally recognise a single, unified, movement.

Pressure, such as sanctions, would be increased on Syrian president Bashar al Assad's regime, whose behaviour continued to be "appalling and unacceptable", he said.

Around 3,500 civilians have been killed in a brutal repression of the uprising.

But the UK is "not contemplating or advocating" a Libya-style foreign military intervention, Mr Hague said.

The Foreign Office amended its travel advice for Egypt last night to warn British nationals to stay away from flashpoint areas around Tahrir and the central area of Cairo, avoid crowds and seek advice from their tour operators.

It said the embassy, near Tahrir, remained open, but it urged citizens seeking consular advice to call rather than turn up.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss