Curfews from 15:00 to 08:00 are in place across Egypt and rationing has been introduced in the republic as protests continue against the rule of Hosni Mubarak who has been in power for 30 years.
President Mubarak swore in a new cabinet this week in an attempt to strengthen his hand and stem the tide of popular dissent against his regime.
On Monday 31st January 2011, China sent two Airbus A330 planes to Egypt to evacuate Chinese nationals stranded at Cairo airport. The planes are expected to arrive at around 5pm local time and are scheduled to return to China by Tuesday morning. Each plane is capable of carrying 265 passengers. 500 Chinese nationals are currently waiting for a flight out of Egypt.
Meanwhile the UK Foreign Office has advised against all non-essential travel to Egypt and the Foreign Secretary William Hague gave the following statement:
We’ve been in close touch with our colleagues in the United States. The Prime Minister talked to President Obama and I talked to Secretary Clinton last night and together we have called for an orderly Egyptian led transition to real and visible reform, to a more broadly based Government, to free and fair elections in Egypt. This reform is the way forward – not repression – and I’m now on my way to Brussels to discuss all of this with the EU Foreign Ministers and hopefully to achieve an agreed position for the whole of the European Union, all twenty seven nations, similar to the one we’ve agreed with the United States.
Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt answered questions in House of Commons on Monday afternoon discussing support for an open press, judiciary and peaceful transition as the Egyptian authorities approach Presidential elections in September 2011.
He also fielded concerns from one MP, who asked for an update on the situation in Sharm el Sheikh, saying a constituent had been in touch to raise alarm at the curfew. Other concerns were raised about the use of aircraft by Mubarak’s forces, the effect of a change in government on UK national security and peace in the Middle East, the spectre of looting and the safety of archaeological treasures in Cairo. Messages in the UK parliament were largely pro-reform and in support of the protestors.
In contrast, Saudi Arabia stood staunchly behind the current President, Hosni Mubarak. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al Saud rang President Mubarak on Saturday 29th January from Riyadh, saying:
“Egypt is a country of Arabism and Islam. No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition.”
Squarely on the political fence was the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. In a statement released at the start of the weekly Israeli Cabinet meeting on Sunday 30th January he said:
“We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and [elsewhere] in our region. Last night, I spoke with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. I also held consultations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and with Israeli intelligence officials.
“Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and security in our region. I remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue. Of course, at this time, we must show maximum responsibility, restraint and sagacity and, to this end, I have instructed my fellow ministers to refrain from commenting on this issue. Naturally, we are also holding consultations in the appropriate government forums.”
The April 6 movement is amassing one million Egyptians to force the replacement of the current government with a democratically elected parliament and presidency.