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Ambiguity in the west over Egypt's derailed democracy

January 23, 2014 at 7:31 am

The US position on Morsi’s ouster from power last Wednesday appears to hinge on their supply of military funding to Egypt, which currently stands at around $1.5 billion a year. According to American state department and foreign operations law, in the event of a coup d’état funding should be withdrawn.

But on Monday, state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said “we’re just not taking a position” on whether or not it considered the ouster of Morsi a military coup. On the arrest of Morsi she said: “we’re not taking positions on specific cases… we’re not taking positions on individuals.”

In fact their decision to not take a position – on anything – speaks volumes about where they do stand. It has done little to supress speculation that the superpower played a part in the overthrow of Morsi. Meanwhile, little notice has been taken of John McCain’s call to suspend aid until there is a new constitution and a free and fair election.

Their tacit stand is similar to that of the UK. Yesterday a spokesperson from the Foreign and Common Wealth Office told MEMO that “it’s vital that all sides rise above self-interest, shun violence, and start to deliver the properly open, democratic and reforming Egypt its people deserve.”

They have called for the return to democratic processes, innocent political leaders and journalists be released, that the authorities fulfil their promises of a free media and for Egyptian parties to work together for a constitution and a civilian government

Though they pointed out that they “do not support military intervention, which can set a dangerous precedent,” and call for “democratic institutions become entrenched in Egypt” they stopped short of calling Morsi’s ouster a military coup.

The UK follows the EU in their neutral stance on Egypt. According to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton: “I hope that the new administration will be fully inclusive and reiterate the importance of ensuring full respect for fundamental rights, freedoms and the rule of law, and will hold the authorities to account for this.”

An ambiguous position, which Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has criticised; he has called for a more extensive response. The “African Union took stand of principle on events in Egypt. Suspended its membership. EU can’t be less concerned than AU with democracy,” he tweeted in reference to the decision taken by the African Union last Friday to suspend Egypt.

Meanwhile, in Turkey all parties in the parliament have condemned the military coup in Egypt – in January 2011 Turkey called on Mubarak to stand down and offered Morsi $2 billion worth of loans when he was elected President.

Turkish Prime Minister Racep Tayyip Erdogan has also criticised the tendency of Western leaders to justify Morsi’s overthrow by how many people gathered in Tahrir to show that they were opposed to his rule. “There is no such thing as a democratic coup” he said.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.