Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s speech on Thursday was greeted with international disappointment. He failed to heed the call to resign immediately. The president did undertake to alter the constitution and to hand over some of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman. The Dutch government wants the details.
There was anger and dismay in Cairo following President Mubarak’s speech on Thursday. He told his Egyptian television audience he would be staying on till September. The protesters had expected him to announce his immediate departure.
Despite the disappointment, the night passed reasonably peacefully. There will, however, be new protests. Further strikes will also pile further pressure on Mr Mubarak, says Radio Netherland Worldwide’s correspondent Hans Jaap Melissen who is in Cairo:
“The protesters say they’ll go to more locations. I think that’ll happen if you look at the energy people here in Tahrir Square have – and many of them haven’t slept much. It’s also important to see whether the strikes carry on and get bigger. If that cripples the country, there’ll be more pressure on Mubarak from within, saying: Look, this is all because of you. If you resign, it’ll be over.”
In his speech, Mr Mubarak only undertook to hand over some of his powers to Vice President Suleiman. “The Egyptian people have been told that there has been a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient,” said United States President Barack Obama in response to the situation. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal is asking precisely which powers Mr Mubarak will relinquish. He hopes there will be a “peaceful” transition:
“I stand by what has been said by the leaders of European governments and their ministers for European affairs: We hope and expect that an orderly and peaceful transition will take place as soon as possible. The speed should be decided upon first and foremost by the Egyptians themselves.”
Dutch MP and former deputy European affairs minister, Frits Timmermans, now a member of the Labour opposition, says Minister Rosenthal’s comments were “too reserved”. He thinks the Netherlands should state in clearer terms its disappointment with Mr Mubarak.
“If the Egyptian people go to the square to say: ‘Mubarak, you’ve got to go now’, then you’ve got to side with the people. In the end, they’ve got to decide how they achieve this. But it’s clear that the transition, which has also been called for internationally, is not taking place. You’ve got to express real disappointment about that.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was clearer than his Dutch counterpart: “This was not the step forward we’d hoped for.” The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has also been forthright, complaining that Mr Mubarak hasn’t cleared the way for further reforms.