UK will work with Egypt's new rulers, says William Hague

Anti-Morsi protesters celebrated in Tahrir Square after the televised announcement

William Hague has said the UK "will work with the people in authority in Egypt" but condemned the ousting of its president as "a dangerous thing".

The foreign secretary told the BBC the UK wanted to see a civilian-led government in Egypt.

But he said "we have to work with whoever is in authority" to protect Britons and UK firms in Egypt.

Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was ousted by its army on Wednesday night.

It followed mass protests against his government - elected following the 2011 revolution and the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak.

'Dangerous precedent'

Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We don't support military intervention as a way to resolve disputes in a democratic system.

"It's of course a dangerous precedent to do that, if one president can be deposed by the military then of course another one can be in the future."

He said political leaders and others must make sure changes were made to ensure the constitution and elections were respected by all, and to improve the Egyptian economy.

"We recognise states not governments. We recognise the state of Egypt and we have to work with whoever is in authority in Egypt. We have to do that for the safety of British nationals, we have to do that because there are so many British companies there. There isn't really any question of not recognising a particular government."

Mr Hague said he could "make our views clear", but had to recognise the army's move was a popular intervention as there had been "enormous dissatisfaction" in Egypt.

Great turbulence

He rejected suggestions that sometimes Western models of democracy should not replace autocratic regimes, which provided stability.

Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi said the armed forces could not stay silent to the call of the Egyptian masses

He said stability "comes from democratic institutions" but getting there could be complicated.

"What's happening in the Arab Spring may well take a generation and there will be upheavals, there will be great turbulence from time to time," he said.

Phase of change

Speaking during his weekly phone-in on LBC radio, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the government did not support coups and wanted Egypt to return to a peaceful democratic government "as quickly as possible".

"I hope we will look back on this as a very, very painful phase of change for a country not accustomed to democracy and democratic transfer of power from one government to the other," he said.

Start Quote

Democracy was the icing on the cake. There is not much point having the icing if you haven't got the cake.”

End Quote Lord Lawson Former UK chancellor

For Labour, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "We do not support military interventions in democratic systems, and it is important that Egypt urgently sets out a clear and credible path back to democratic rule.

"The British government is correct to urge all parties to avoid any further violence and bloodshed."

In the House of Lords, Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi pointed to England's "long and bloody disputes about the role of the Church and the role of the state".

"We now require strategic patience. We have to allow this process to take place. Of course there will be many bumps along the way but it is important that all parties are allowed to take part in any democratic process."

During the exchanges on the situation in Egypt, Former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson also pointed the "very slow progress towards democracy" over the centuries in England.

"Of course what we went through is first having freedom and the rule of law and then constitutional government and then democracy," he said.

"Democracy was the icing on the cake. There is not much point having the icing if you haven't got the cake."

Meanwhile, the head of the Coptic Church in the UK called for an "intentional and proactive programme of reconciliation among all parties" in Egypt.

Egypt's Coptic Christians make up about 10% of the country's population and Bishop Angaelos represents about 20,000 Egyptian Copts based in Britain.

In April, Coptic Christians accused President Morsi of "negligence" after two people died in clashes between Christians and Muslims outside the main cathedral in Cairo.

Bishop Angaelos said: "With the age-old scourge of illiteracy and poverty unaddressed and the development of a cohesive sense of national pride and unity unrealised, the people of Egypt took to the streets to follow their desire for dignity and social justice."

In a TV address on Wednesday evening, the head of Egypt's army, Gen Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, announced that President Mohammed Morsi was no longer in office having "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people".

The constitution had been suspended and Mr Morsi's powers would be taken on by the chief justice of the constitutional court, he said.

UK Foreign Office advice urges Britons to avoid all but essential travel to most parts of Egypt and calls on those already there to consider whether they need to remain.

The resorts which are not covered by the advice are:

  • the entire region of Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab
  • the St Catherine's Monastery World Heritage Site
  • road travel between the Red Sea resorts
  • road travel from the Red Sea resorts to St Catherine's Monastery approaching from the east
  • transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm El Sheikh

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