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PM Papandreou’s statement on the situation in Egypt (Parliament, 11 February 2011)
Our bond with Egypt and the proud Egyptian people is one of brotherhood; it is a bond of friendship and trust. And that is why it is so very painful for us to see the country sink deeper, day by day, into disagreement and conflict.
It is urgent and imperative that Egypt find its way to initiating an open political process that will transform the very reasonable demands of the Egyptian people into concrete rights: more freedom, more Democracy, equal opportunities, the right to a better life and the right to build a better Egypt that will serve as a model for the whole of the Arab world: more stable, stronger, more democratic.
This is what the younger generation in Egypt is asking for. And it is heartening – it belies the widely supported claim that the differences between East and West, Muslims and Christians, cannot be bridged – that the notion of Democracy is universal; it is a notion that is embraced by the visions of Arab and Muslim peoples.
And Egypt is the largest Arab country. It is a strategic partner in the Middle East; a pillar of stability in our region. So it needs to find its feet for its people and for peace and stability in the region.
No one can tell the Egyptian people what to do. We all need to respect Egypt’s sovereignty and independence. We need to respect its strategic role and its history. Egypt needs to decide on its own. But its friends will be at its side in this endeavor.
And, of course, Egypt’s fate will determine our fate in the region. So, friends are obliged to tell the truth. And the truth is, right now, beyond the heroic youth demonstrations at Tahrir Square and the political negotiations between the government and the opposition – beyond the declarations, the transfer of power and the imperative need to avoid violence – one thing will decide how things develop: the realization by everyone that the change is real; that reform has already begun.
There is no return from the path that led the people to Tahrir Square. The political leaders of Egypt – of all the parties – have a duty to rise to the occasion, to show courage and a willingness to effect reconciliation and reject violence and the games of power politics. A clash with the people would have devastating consequences, not just for Egypt, but for the whole region.
So they need to put the interests of the whole of Egypt and the Egyptian people first. They need to be able to look the Egyptian people in the eye. Egypt is being reborn, and it needs leadership and guidance; leadership that will be judged by history.
On this new page of Egypt’s history – a page that is already being written – time will be of secondary importance. But the decisions of Egypt’s leaders will be of profound importance and need to be taken in full awareness that change has come. The Egyptian people may be certain that Greece and the Greek people will be at their side on this path to change.