Any political transition in Egypt should take place now, says UN chief

2 February 2011

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today once more urged restraint by all sides in Egypt, as pro- and anti-government protesters clashed during demonstrations in the capital, Cairo, and said that any political transition should take place sooner rather than later.

President Hosni Mubarak announced yesterday that he intended to serve out the remainder of his current term, but would not seek another term as president in September.

“There needs to be a very peaceful and orderly transition; if any transition is to be taken, it should be done now,” Mr. Ban told reporters in London after meeting with United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron.

He stated that the violence in Egypt was unacceptable, and condemned any attacks on peaceful protests. The leaders should listen more attentively to the “genuine and sincere” wish of the people, said the Secretary-General.

In a lecture he delivered at Oxford University later in the day, he said the protests “reflect the great frustration of the Egyptian people about the lack of change over the past few decades. This discontent calls for bold reforms, not repression,” he added.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that as many as 300 people may have been killed so far, over 3,000 injured and hundreds arrested, according to the UN human rights office.

Mr. Ban noted that, for the last decade, the UN has been warning of the need for change in the region, including through its Arab Human Development Reports.

“It is important, at this juncture, that an orderly and peaceful transition should take place,” he stated. “I urge all the parties to engage in such a dialogue and such a process without any further delay.”

Saying that the danger of instability across the Middle East should not be underestimated, the Secretary-General said the UN stood ready to provide any assistance to such reform efforts by Egypt or any other Arab nation.

The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also discussed the Middle East peace process, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Afghanistan, among others. Mr. Ban also met separately with William Hague, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development; and Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Labour Party and the Leader of the Opposition.

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN officials urge Egyptian authorities to heed call for democracy, human rights

United Nations officials, including its human rights chief, today voiced alarm at the high number of casualties amid the protests in Egypt, while calling on the country’s authorities to heed the demands of the people for democratic reform and respect for human rights.