UK to support newly-elected Islamic govts, says Hague
AFP LONDON BRITISH Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday pledged to support governments elected in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, despite “legitimate concerns” over the rise of parties rooted in Islam.
Writing in The Times newspaper, Hague argued that the recent success enjoyed by religious parties did not mean the Arab Spring had turned into a “cold winter”, warning that bad governance would again force demonstrators onto the streets.
“It is true that parties drawing their inspiration from Islam have done better at the polls than secular parties and there are legitimate concerns about what this will mean,” Hague wrote in Friday’s edition.
“We must respect these choices while upholding our own principles of human rights and freedom and urging the highest standards,” he added. “The true test of these governments will be how they act in office.” The former Conservative Party leader warned that expressing favour for certain parties or philosophies in the ongoing series of Middle East elections would “fatally undermine faith in our intentions and our support for democracy.” Prime Minister David Cameron avoided meeting with officials from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood during a visit last year, calling them “extreme”, but Britain now seems keen to build bridges after the party’s strong showing in recent elections.
Hague vowed to “redouble our diplomatic and longterm support to the region”, saying that the Arab Spring was “always going to be a long process, not an instant fix”.
The minister predicted a bumpy ride ahead for the region, pointing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s violent crackdown on protesters.
Britain remains devoted to supporting the Arab League in its attempts to broker an end to the Syrian violence while maintaining economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime, stressed Hague.
Britain was at the forefront of international efforts to support Libya’s rebels against then leader Moamer Qadhafi, and was one of the first countries alongside France and the US to launch military action under a UN mandate in March.
Hague welcomed an amnesty in Myanmar for some prominent political prisoners, saying it showed the army-backed regime’s commitment to reform.
Myanmar pardoned a number of prominent dissidents, journalists and a former premier, including members of the “88 Generation Students” group which was at the forefront of a failed 1988 uprising in which thousands died.
“I am delighted to hear that a significant number of political prisoners in Burma have today been released, including 88 Generation and ethnic leaders,” Hague said in a statement, referring to the country by its former name.
“The release of all political prisoners is a long-standing demand of the international community and I warmly welcome these releases as a further demonstration of the Burmese government’s commitment to reform.” Hague last week made the first visit by a foreign minister of Myanmar’s former colonial power to visit in over 50 years, during which he met democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and top government members.
“This is exactly the kind of measure I called for in all my meetings with Burmese government leaders last week,” he said.
“So is this week’s muchneeded ceasefire in the conflict with the Karen people. I hope these positive steps will contribute to greater democratic participation in the upcoming parliamentary by-elections.” Myanmar on Thursday signed a ceasefire with the major armed ethnic Karen group involved in one of the world’s longest-running civil conflicts.