Friday, 25 February 2011
Cameron: Mideast leaders use Israel as a distraction
UK Prime Minister David Cameron told students in Qatar that some Middle Eastern rulers were using the Israel-Palestine conflict as a distraction from their own oppressive regimes.
“In too many countries in the Middle East, some rulers say to their people ‘be angry about that, don’t be angry about the fact that you live in a non-open society,’” Cameron told his audience at Qatar University in the capital, Doha, yesterday (Wednesday) after taking a series of questions on Israel.
The prime minister is on a tour of the region that has so far taken in Egypt and Kuwait. In both countries he said rulers in the Middle East and North Africa should respond to the waves of protest by offering more economic and political openness. He’s also pushing the European Union to tie its aid program to commitments on greater democracy.
In a speech to Kuwait’s parliament, Cameron said he saw grounds for “cautious optimism” in the political protest that is sweeping the region from Algeria to the Persian Gulf. He said political and economic change are essential for stability.
The prime minister used his speech to tell his audience they should welcome the demonstrations springing up across the region. He said young people, protesting “peacefully and bravely,” are showing that there were other alternatives than “repression and extremism.”
On Monday, Cameron became the first Western leader to visit Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on Feb. 11. He urged the country’s new military rulers to bring opposition leaders into the government and end a state of emergency to demonstrate their desire to move toward democracy.
At Qatar University, Cameron condemned attempts by the Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi, to use force to crush an uprising against his rule. “We should send a very clear warning to Colonel Qaddafi and to the Libyan armed forces that what they’re doing is against the law,” the prime minister said.
Future aid to the region must be conditional on more political openness, Cameron said at a press conference in Doha. “Europe has given a huge amount to these countries. It hasn’t really insisted on proper conditions,” Cameron said. “We have seen far too much money disappearing into a great big black hole. This is a wake-up call for the European Union to look at the aid that it gives. It’s not acceptable that this money has gone and no particular reform has happened in return.”