Asked what the Prime Minister’s assessment was of what had been happening over the last few hours, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister had set out the latest position this morning. We wanted to see a process of political reform with an orderly transition to a government that responded to the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people. The Prime Minister made his views clear to President Mubarak over the weekend.
The PMS said it was a fast-moving situation in Egypt. Our travel advice was being kept under constant review and reflected our assessment of what was happening on the ground. We were in regular contact with ABTA, tour operators and airlines.
The PMS added that the majority of Britons in Egypt were in the Red Sea resorts such as Sharm El Shaik, and at the moment the Red Sea area was calm.
We had been deploying additional staff to Egypt, by drawing in people from the region as well as sending out staff from the UK. We had a large team in place at Cairo airport who would be staying overnight to offer assistance. We now had a team of over 30 consular officials in Egypt, providing help and support to British people.
Asked what the latest estimate was on the number of British people in Egypt, the PMS said that we thought there were up to 30,000 Britons, including British expats.
Asked if the UK Government wanted to see a new government in Egypt headed up by President Mubarak, the PMS replied that he would not want to say any more than what the Prime Minister had said this morning; the Prime Minister had been clear that we were not saying that a certain person should run a certain country. The Prime Minister had talked about encouraging friends’ to do the right thing.
Asked what the prospects were for similar pro-democracy protests spreading to other countries in the region, the PMS replied that he would not be adding anything to what we had already said on the subject. We had seen similar situations in recent weeks and we were monitoring what was going on.
On whether there were any plans for the Government to charter planes to bring British citizens back, the PMS said that we were not arranging flights at the present time, but we were keeping the situation under review. The situation was slightly different for UK tourists than it was for US tourists, who were mainly in the historic centres, whereas the vast majority of British tourists were in the Red Sea areas.
Asked if there was any extra help being given by the Government in getting people to airports, the PMS replied that we had already sent one rapid deployment team to Cairo and another would be sent today. These teams consisted of specially trained FCO staff, who were trained to deal with these kinds of situations.
When asked about the phrase, orderly transition’ and how it could be read any other way than the UK Government looking beyond President Mubarak, the PMS said that we had commented on the issue. The PMS pointed people towards the Prime Minister’s remarks. It was not for the UK Government to dictate who was leading this country or that country.
On why having a view on the situation meant dictating to a country who should be their leader, the PMS said that we had expressed our opinion over the past week and over the weekend, and the US had done the same. As the Prime Minister had said, Egypt was a friend, and we were encouraging friends to do the right thing. The PMS said that it was a very different thing to start to dictate to others.
Asked if the Prime Minister viewed President Mubarak as the legitimate President of Egypt, the PMS replied that it was a fact that President Mubarak was the President of Egypt.
Asked if the FCO advice was still that the Red Sea area was safe to travel to and people should still book their flights to that area of the country, the PMS replied that the FCO did not offer advice of that description. The FCO had made a general assessment as well as giving specific advice on individual parts of the country.
Briefing took place at 10:00 | Search for related news
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