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Interview: “Keeping sight of the region’s long-term development” (Mitteldeutsche Zeitung)

07.02.2011 - Interview

Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaks to the newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung about the situation in Egypt (published on 7 February 2011)

Minister Westerwelle, only a few months ago you praised Egyptian President Mubarak as a man of great wisdom who is focused firmly on the future.Is that still the case?

Egypt took a constructive position during the Middle East peace process. Egypt was the first Arab country to enter into a peace agreement with Israel. These are historical facts.

So does your judgment still hold true in light of the possibly historical events of the past days?

The Egyptian people want democratic reform, and they want it now. We as democrats stand on the side of democracy. This is something that I have repeatedly communicated to my interlocutors in the Egyptian Government in recent days.

It has been suggested that Mubarak could come here.Could this be a contribution by Germany to a peaceful transition?

As a matter of principle, I do not engage in that sort of speculation.

Don’t comparisons with the peaceful revolutions of 1989 in the GDR and Eastern Europe automatically come to mind for us Germans?Well-educated middle-class people are protesting on the streets and politicians previously assumed to be guarantors of stability are getting swept up.

If history has good intentions, what we are witnessing will prove to be a globalization of the Enlightenment. Democracy, not radicalism, has to win.

Do you not see parallels to 1989?

It is difficult to predict how events will unfold, in addition to which there are major differences between the countries in the region. Algeria is a different case from Tunisia. And things are different there than in Egypt, never mind Libya. The Arab world is highly differentiated. These days in Lebanon we are even faced with the unpleasant development of Hezbollah gaining strength.

Speaking of Hezbollah,do you fear that destabilization of the region would threaten Israel?

German foreign policy that is value- and interest-guided cannot have its eye on tomorrow’s news headlines. It must keep sight of the region’s long-term development. We need to be clear internally, but we also need to be wise externally. That is why we have sent clear signals to the opposition as well as to the Egyptian Government. Developments in Egypt are being followed in Israel very closely and with concern. It is a duty and commitment of the German Government to contribute to ensuring that Israel’s right to exist is not threatened.

The German Embassy in Cairo has been criticized for failing to provide enough help to German citizens.Was it not well prepared eno ugh?

I am grateful for the tireless work of the Embassy staff, who have helped many people get out of Egypt and who have carried on their work at great personal risk.

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Interview conducted by Hartmut Augustin and Thomas Kröter.Reproduced with the kind permission of the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

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