SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday downplayed fear that a Tunisian-style popular revolt could spread to other Arab countries, calling it “nonsense.”
“The talk about the spread of what happened in Tunisia to other countries is nonsense. Each society has its own circumstances,” Aboul Gheit told reporters on the sidelines of preparatory meetings for the second Arab economic summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
“If the Tunisian people decide to take that approach, it’s their business.”
He added that “Egypt said the Tunisian people’s will is what counts.”
“Those who imagine things and seek to escalate the situation will not achieve their goals,” Aboul Gheit said.
He accused “some Arab satellite televisions of seeking to incite Arab societies and destroy them.”
“The most important thing is the will of the Tunisian people. Nobody is resisting it,” Aboul Gheit added.
Asked if the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting would issue a resolution on Tunisia, the minister said “I doubt it, but if the summit wants to discuss the Tunisian issue, then so be it.”
After 23 years of iron-fisted rule, Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali caved in to violent popular protests on Friday and fled to Saudi Arabia, becoming the first Arab leader to do so.
Governments in the Middle East are increasingly uneasy about the situation as opposition groups seek to take advantage of the upheaval in the north African country.
In separate remarks, Cairo’s top diplomat warned the West to stay out of Arab affairs, days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Arab leaders to work with their peoples to bring reforms.
Egypt, he said, proposed to Arab League chief Amr Moussa that the summit issue a statement concerning “attempts by some Western and European nations to interfere in Egyptian and Arab affairs.”
“We hope that the summit will adopt Egypt’s proposal which would be a message from the Arab to the Western and European world saying ‘Do not dare interfere in our affairs’,” he was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency.
MENA said he was responding to a question from one of its journalists who asked if the summit could adopt a common position concerning Western bids to interfere in Arab affairs.
On Thursday, Clinton urged Arab leaders to work with their peoples to implement reforms or see extremists fill the void, warning the “region’s foundations are sinking.”
The region’s peoples “have grown tired of corrupt institutions,” Clinton told Arab counterparts in Qatar attending the Forum for the Future, a 2004 US initiative aimed at promoting such partnerships.
“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere,” she said.
Clinton said the region’s leaders “in partnership with their peoples” have the capacity to build a bold new future where entrepreneurship and political freedoms are encouraged.
“It’s time to see civil society not as a threat but as a partner,” she said.
“Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while but not forever.
“Others will fill the vacuum,” if leaders failed to offer a positive vision to give “young people meaningful ways to contribute,” Clinton warned.