Sunday, March 20, 2011
A successful transition in Egypt towards greater democracy can inspire the rest of the region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the country to continue with its recent reforms by holding fair and transparent elections soon, upholding the rights of women and minorities and encouraging the development of a free press.
In his first visit to Egypt since long-standing leader Hosni Mubarak was toppled by popular protests in January, Mr. Ban pledged that the United Nations would help the country as it "walks this very difficult, very important road? towards fuller democracy and more participatory democracy." The Secretary-General held talks today in Cairo with many senior officials, including Foreign Minister Nabil el-Araby, and tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ezzad Sharaf and the country's High Council of the Armed Forces.
Today's talks focused in part on yesterday's referendum, in which Egyptians voted on a number of proposals for constitutional reform, including reducing the number and length of presidential terms and altering the criteria for eligible presidential candidates. Media reports indicated an extremely high voter turnout for the referendum. Mr. Ban told journalists in Cairo that he would stress during his visit that there must be "transparent and inclusive national dialogue that spans the spectrum of Egyptian society," as well as the staging of free and fair elections on a mutually agreed timetable.
Popular protests have swept North Africa and the Middle East in recent months and the long-term regime in Tunisia also fell earlier this year. The Secretary-General said the UN was able to assist Egypt with its social and economic development, including the promotion of further tourism, as well as technical support for elections expected to be held later this year.
(Excerpts from a UN Press Release)