THE POLITICAL INSTABILITY across the Middle East could last for decades, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Monday.
Hague said the turbulence in the Middle East was the most significant event of the 21st century so far, but urged optimism over the prospects for peaceful democracy in the region.
“What is happening now in the Middle East is the most important event so far of the 21st century, even compared to the financial crisis we have been through and its impact on world affairs,” he told BBC radio.
“I think it will take years, maybe decades, to play out, and through that we have to keep our nerve in clearly supporting democracy, democratic institutions, promoting dialogue, and there will be many setbacks in doing that.”
Deep political crisis
Egypt is in the throes of a deep political crisis, and violence that has claimed nearly 800 lives in several days of clashes between Islamist protesters and security forces.
Hague dismissed suggestions that Britain and its international partners could have little influence on events in Egypt, highlighting discussions over aid and the revocation of some export licenses to the country.
“It is a very bleak situation, it is hard to underestimate the hate and distrust on both sides of the politics in Egypt,” he said.
“But I would not accept… there is nothing at all we can do about it.
Years of turbulence
“Our influence may be limited — it is a proudly independent country — and there may be years of turbulence in Egypt and other countries going through this profound debate about the nature of democracy and the role of religion in their society.
“We have to do our best to promote democratic institutions and political dialogue and to keep faith with the majority of Egyptians who just want a peaceful and stable country.”
The departure of Egyptian Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who resigned as vice-president in protest over the bloody crackdown, was a blow and a “bad sign”, Hague said.