British foreign policy and the ‘Arab Spring’: the transition to democracy

AS 07

Written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The causes of the Arab Spring

1. The Arab Spring has brought an historic opportunity, created and led by the people of the region, to build more open, prosperous societies in the Middle East and North Africa. The MENA region matters to the UK’s security and prosperity. If the Arab Spring brings more open and democratic societies, it will be the greatest gain for human rights and freedom since the end of the Cold War. If it falters, it will risk dangerous instability on Europe’s doorstep, collapse back into more authoritarian regimes, conflict and terrorism. In any case it will be a difficult and long-lasting challenge and there will be no simple or ideal outcomes.

The FCO’s preparedness

2. The Arab Spring began with events in Tunisia in December 2010. But the underlying issues driving discontent in the region are long-term and well-documented, for example in reports of human development in the region since 2002. The FCO had introduced policies to respond to these challenges under the Labour government, as detailed in the FCO White Papers of 2003 and 2006, which acknowledged the need to support peaceful political, economic and social reform in the Middle East through the work of the Engaging with the Islamic World programme fund. In late 2009, the FCO undertook a policy project to draw together an evidence base and propose recommendations on what more we could do in partnership with international and regional partners to address the root causes. With the Foreign Secretary’s approval in July 2010, the FCO’s Director of Middle East and North Africa established a new team (now the Arab Partnership Department) in autumn 2010 to take this work forward.

3. The resulting approach-the UK’s Arab Partnership, announced in February 2011 and expanded in May 2011 to a joint FCO-DFID endeavour backed by a £110m Fund -has placed the UK in a strong position to respond strategically and rapidly to the Arab Spring, both bilaterally (including with strategic partners such as the British Council) and through the multilateral mechanisms of the EU and G8. The FCO’s public diplomacy work in the region, including digital communications, which was already well advanced as the Arab Spring began, together with efforts to improve linguistic and geographic expertise, contributed to the response.

4. While we were aware of the fundamental underlying frustrations of people in the region, and were orientating our policies to address them, we did not predict that a spark in Tunisia in December 2010 would trigger such an outpouring of protest. No other international player, academic analyst, or opposition group within the region foresaw this either. Even those who had for many years been calling for radical change had no knowledge prior to the events of January that such change was in prospect. There was a recognition that where people are not free to express their concerns or opposition to the policies of their governments, there is a risk of frustrations bursting out suddenly and with potentially dramatic consequences.

Key Elements of the Policy Response

5. A number of key principles have informed our policy response to the Arab Spring as it has manifested itself in different ways across countries of the region. Above all, as set out in the Prime Minister’s 22 February Kuwait speech we have taken a values-based approach, judging that the UK’s long-term national interests in security and prosperity in the region are best served if we are dealing with governments with legitimacy built on the consent and participation of their people.

6. This does not mean one form of democracy fits all. Each country is different and has the right to develop its own political model. And these are Arab revolutions. Change is being led by the people of the region and it is not for us to dictate the pace or nature of that change. However, the UK does have a role in being clear about our values and supporting reformers across the region. We are doing so bilaterally using our Arab Partnership Funds, and multilaterally through the EU and G8, supporting transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, but also more widely across the region.

7. The interim government in Tunisia has made steady progress towards a transition to democracy, and the authorities have been open to international assistance. Elections look set to go ahead on time although challenges remain.

8. There has been less consensus in Egypt than Tunisia on the post-revolution path, with further large-scale popular protests. The authorities, reflecting nationalist sentiment, have been less inclined to accept international support. The political process leading to elections in November faces uncertainties. The economies in both countries have suffered short-term, though not fatally. An extended transition period in either could increase popular discontent.

9. The UK is supporting transitions in both countries bilaterally through Arab Partnership activity, and multi-laterally through the G8’s Deauville Partnership and the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy.


10. Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere were the result of a diverse range of citizens demanding a better political and economic deal. They were not instigated by Islamist groups and did not target Islamist goals, although groups from across the political spectrum have sought to use events to advance their agenda. Islamist parties can be expected to play an important political role in transition countries. We will interact with parties which are committed to the democratic process, operate within the law of their country and reject violence.

Wider regional impact

11. The Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry has an initial focus on events in Egypt and Tunisia but will also consider implications for regional security and may also consider reform elsewhere in the region, including Libya. The full impact of the Arab Spring cannot yet be assessed but it is already clear that it has irrevocably changed political and social landscapes in the Arab world, impacting on UK policy in the wider region.

Consular and crisis management

12. The crises affected up to 6,000 British nationals in Tunisia and 40,000 in Tunisia and Egypt respectively. The FCO’s consular response involved the deployment of Rapid Deployment Teams, to help with the assisted departure operations, and the establishment of round the clock teams of volunteers working in the crisis centre in London. Following the evacuation of British nationals from Libya, the Foreign Secretary placed in the Library of the House an internal Review of Consular Evacuation Procedures.

13. Since January 2011, approximately 570 FCO members of staff have been required to bolster MENAD’s and Consular Directorate’s handling of the crises, with consequent re-prioritisation of other FCO work.



14. From popular demonstrations beginning in Tunisia in December 2010, the Arab Spring has brought a historic opportunity, created and led by the people of the region to build more open, prosperous societies in the Middle East and North Africa.

15. The action of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself on fire on 17 December 2010 in protest at his harassment and humiliation by a Tunisian official is credited as being the starting point of these demonstrations. But behind Bouazizi’s act of protest lie long-term issues affecting many countries of the MENA region.

16. The series of United Nations Development Programme’s Arab Human Development Reports since 2002 have set out these issues and challenges at length, with many MENA states considered security-based regimes, lacking accountable governance and with weak civil society and distorted economic performance. [1] There are some daunting statistics:

· Economic underperformance-GDP per capita growth of only 6.4% between 1980 and 2004 (less than 0.5% annually)

· Growing demographic pressures: 331 million population today, more than doubling since 1980 and due to rise to 395 million by 2015. 60% are under 25

· Youth unemployment at 15% nearly double the world average; with a predicted 51m new jobs required by 2020

· Just 59% of children in Arab states enrolled in secondary schools

· The highest ratio of "not free" countries of any region, at 88% (Freedom House)

· 7 million registered refugees, over 45% of the global total

· 24% of the population living below the poverty line, with widening inequality.

17. This matters to the UK’s national security and prosperity interests for reasons of:

· conflict prevention: the MENA region is home to some of the most long-running, high profile and intractable foreign policy issues. It is far more cost-effective to invest in upstream prevention than to deal with the consequences;

· energy security: the region contains over 2/3 of proven global oil reserves and ½ global natural gas reserves;

· counter-radicalisation: almost half of the countries deemed critical to HMG’s counter-terrorism objectives are in the MENA region;

· defence interests and commitments: with the region accounting for over 50% of all UK defence sales by value in the past 10 years;

· commercial opportunity: bilateral trade with MENA is worth £35bn annually;

· migration: annually 15% of asylum applications come from MENA nationals;

· UK Expatriates: over 140,000 UK nationals live and work in the region, especially in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

FCO analysis: Arab Human Development project

18. The challenges identified in the initial UNDP Arab Human Development Report in 2002 and in subsequent reports led to an increasing awareness of the need to address the long-term stability of the Middle East through political, social and economic reform. This approach was described by previous governments in the FCO White Papers of 2003 and 2006 and was implemented principally through the work of the Engaging with the Islamic World project fund (as set out in reports of the FCO’s Global Opportunities Fund and Strategic Programme Fund). The Conflict Pool, a tri-departmental (FCO, MOD and DFID) fund established by Parliament in 2001, was also used to support programmes focused on strengthening the rule of law and democratic institutions in the MENA region. The main focus of activity was on Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but the Conflict Pool also supported work in the Gulf region and North Africa.

19. In response to the most recent UNDP report in late 2009, the Middle East and North Africa Directorate of the FCO (MENAD) commissioned the FCO’s Strategy Unit (now renamed as Policy Unit) to work on a project setting out analyses and recommendations on whether the UK should adopt "Arab Human Development" as a priority policy focus.

20. This stemmed from growing concern that human development issues [1] -summed up as political, economic and social participation-continued to worsen through the region, and coupled with demographic factors, had the potential to impact badly on long-term stability and prosperity in the MENA region.

21. Recognising this critical challenge, MENAD’s leadership initiated this research process to explore options that would allow the UK to do more to address these issues in a coherent manner.

22. The Strategy Unit project used an evidence-based approach to analyse recent trends in the MENA region and their impact on the UK’s interests. It sought views from a wide range of stakeholders from within the FCO and our Embassies in the region, other Government Departments, international organisations, other governments (including those of Egypt and Jordan), think tanks and academics.

23. The project was completed in late spring 2010. It concluded that: a positive enabling environment for UK interests was best secured by an Arab world which was stable, well governed and prosperous. But a vicious circle had emerged in the Arab world, putting UK interests at risk:

24. The project concluded that action on the human development agenda was a key part of breaking this cycle. Arab countries needed to promote better governance and participation. This included action on social participation (citizens educated and engaged), economic participation (greater access to jobs and opportunity) and political participation (more accountability and inclusivity).  This is set out graphically in the slide below. Broad and multi-faced, this agenda was inherently difficult to act upon with measurable impact, even in the long term.  But it was considered too important to UK interests to ignore.

25. The project concluded that a more strategic approach to human development in the region would enable the FCO to better co-ordinate with other Government departments and international partners, and perhaps allow the UK to take the lead in establishing an international consensus and drive this agenda within the EU.

26. The project’s policy recommendations in Spring 2010 were that the FCO should:

· have stronger central co-ordination and oversight, including tasking and evaluation of impact, where possible;

· set out more clearly why Arab Human development matters to UK interests in order to facilitate a shared vision and clear policy goals;

· use this more strategic approach in order to give the UK thought-leadership on Arab human development within the EU/UN and G8, to generate positive messaging on this agenda and to drive our cooperation with key bilateral partners, and

· once policy options and priorities had been identified, secure the resources to implement them.


27. The development of the Arab Partnership initiative meant the FCO was well-placed to understand and respond to the evolving situation in the region. Political and economic reform was already a focus of FCO activity, and human rights issues were raised regularly. In Egypt in particular, internal tensions were apparent and reporting from Cairo during 2010 and in 2011 highlighted that it was imperative for the government to respond to the ambitions of Egyptian society to participate in the way the country was run. Nonetheless the timing of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, by definition, took their governments and informed observers alike by surprise. Not even the local opposition movements who were most fervently pressing for change anticipated that it would happen when it did. Work on developing the FCO’s Middle Eastern skills through the Middle East and North Africa cadre work and on developing digital diplomacy in the region supported the FCO’s ability to respond.

Turning analysis into action

28. In July 2010 Director MENAD wrote to the Foreign Secretary setting out plans to set up a new 4-person Arab Human Development pilot team within the Directorate to focus on addressing the underlying political, social and economic drivers of discontent within the region, providing the central, coordinated oversight recommended by the Strategy Unit project.

29. The Team Leader was appointed in October 2010 and recruitment commenced for three other team members. Given the importance of governance issues to this agenda, a DFID governance adviser was recruited into the Deputy Team Leader slot on secondment, beginning work in early January.

30. Through initial analytical work during November-December 2010, drawing on UK Embassies’ knowledge and experience of their host countries, the Team developed a country by country picture of the major economic, social and political drivers of discontent. Although there were variations between countries, the analysis revealed the six most powerful drivers to be:

· limited political participation;

· lack of public voice;

· high levels of corruption;

· insufficient rule of law and access to justice;

· inadequate youth employability, and

· a weak private sector which restricted job creation.

31. These findings, based on qualitative post assessments, mirrored secondary research conducted, drawing together data from UNDP Arab Human Development reports, the World Bank Institute, Freedom House, Transparency International, and other open sources.

32. In late December 2010 Director MENA wrote to the Foreign Secretary with recommendations on the shape and proposed activity of the Arab Human Development Team.

There would be three work-streams:

Policy: Crafting the Arab Human Development narrative, setting out why this agenda matters to UK interests and values. Identifying the principles underlying the UK approach: e.g. local ownership, avoiding the imposition of ideas from the outside. Conducting a rigorous analysis to identify priority themes and countries for UK action. The policy work-stream would cover all the Arab countries, encouraging them to put in place the building-blocks of more open and inclusive societies.

Partnerships: Reaching out to other partners with an interest in this agenda to leverage support and avoid duplication. In particular the team’s analysis had underlined the importance of using UK diplomacy to influence EU and G8 engagement on the regional reform agenda.

Programme: An Arab Human Development Programme Fund to demonstrate our commitment to this agenda and to back our words with action, funding well-targeted, impactful project work in MENA countries most requiring support.

33. The team made a case for programme funding to allow the UK to help address these deficits and the Foreign Secretary agreed in December 2010 to the establishment of the Arab Partnership Fund with an initial £5 million of programme funding. This Fund, as part of the broader Arab Partnership initiative, was formally announced by the Foreign Secretary on a visit to post-revolution Tunisia on 8 February, less than four weeks after the fall of Ben Ali.

34. At the same time the team’s name was changed from Arab Human Development to "Arab Partnership." This reflected advice that Arab Human Development could mistakenly suggest the sole focus of its work was socio-economic drivers (UNDP’s Human Development Index includes a composite of GDP, education and health indicators), excluding governance and accountability.

Expansion of the Arab Partnership initiative

35. With the Arab Partnership team in place, MENAD was well positioned to respond to the Arab Spring in a strategic, coherent manner. The Team had already developed:

· a policy response, based on agreed principles (see section 3 below)

· understanding of the importance of working in partnership with other key players, particularly the EU and the G8, to maximise our impact

· a programme to address the priority areas driving discontent in countries of the region.

36. However, as events in Tunisia affected other MENA countries beginning with Egypt, the UK Government needed to raise its response to the opportunities and challenges unfolding in the region. Working with other Government departments, particularly the Department for International Development, MENAD upgraded the Arab Partnership Team’s work, enlarging it to become a full FCO Department in May 2011, with Arab Partnership work becoming the top priority on the MENAD Directorate Business Plan. At the same time the Arab Partnership sought to develop closer relationships with strategic partners beyond DFID, including the British Council, BBC World Service (e.g. in the context of helping develop national media institutions in the region) and Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to help coordinate the UK’s response to events in the region. The Department also liaised closely with other complementary initiatives such as the FCO’s Gulf Initiative, and the appointment of the Defence Special Adviser to the Middle East Lt Gen Simon Mayall.

37. Following Whitehall discussions, the Prime Minister formally announced on 26 May on the eve of the G8’s Deauville Summit that the Arab Partnership was to become a joint FCO-DFID endeavour with an Arab Partnership Fund of £110m over four years. This includes £40m for the Arab Partnership Participation Fund (managed by the FCO), focusing primarily on the first five of the Arab Partnership priority areas (para 30 above), and £70m (managed by DFID) for an Arab Partnership Economic Facility, focusing on economic reform issues (the sixth priority).

Policy in Tunisia

38. The UK’s bilateral relationship with Tunisia prior to 2011 was limited. Although the Foreign Secretary had identified North Africa as a priority, the Ben Ali regime was not open to discussion on Tunisian internal politics, nor to effective co-operation in other areas. Security co-operation was limited to some joint work in the field of aviation security, primarily aimed to address the potential threat to UK tourists in Tunisia.  

39. The presence in the UK of Rachid Ghannouchi, a leading Tunisian opposition figure (see para 117), was an important factor in the attitude of the Tunisian government.  Our policy of contact with opposition parties and human rights groups in Tunisia also triggered negative reactions from the former regime.  But we maintained this policy and have subsequently been applauded for having done so by Tunisian commentators. We were also aware of a worrying deterioration in the human rights situation in Tunisia and of growing public frustration with economic hardships, especially youth unemployment.  Despite limited contact, we did take action to raise these issues with the Tunisian government, often in co-ordination with EU partners in order to maximise the effectiveness of the message.  This included lobbying on human rights defender cases and changes to the Tunisian Penal Code.   We also lobbied hard in the EU to ensure that the Tunisian proposal for "Advanced Status" with the EU was linked to specific and measurable steps on human rights to deliver real reform in Tunisia.

40. We nonetheless worked to pursue UK interests in Tunisia where possible. Our access to decision-makers on trade and investment issues was generally good.  Overall UK presence in the market was relatively low (UK exports to Tunisia totalled £202 million in 2010, approximately 1% of Tunisian imports), but the UK was prominent in the energy sector, where we were (and continue to be) the market leader.  There was significant appetite for English language co-operation and the British Council were supporting a comprehensive overhaul of English teaching in all Tunisian secondary schools with a view to influencing the coming generation and opening up the country to wider UK influence. We were able to maintain this activity without compromising our approach to contact with opposition figures in Tunisia. Policy was not therefore dominated by concerns over regional stability or counter-terrorism.

41. We, like others, did not predict the fall of Ben Ali. Nor did the opposition leaders we spoke to or our wide range of youth contacts, including people who, in the event, took an active part in the revolution. In the Tunisian case, even as the days passed in December and January, the objectives of the protesters changed very quickly, from expressing frustration at economic hardships, to voicing anger at the actions of the security authorities, to demanding the end of corruption, to calling for the departure of Ben Ali.

42. In any regime where people are not free to express their concerns or opposition to the policies of their governments, there is a risk of frustrations bursting out suddenly and with potentially dramatic consequences. No amount of intelligence effort or further consultation with oppositionists or youth groups could have forewarned us or others of the actual outcome. It has always been our view that countries who do not allow free expression are potentially vulnerable in this way and are therefore fundamentally less stable than democracies. The events of the Arab spring have vividly proven this to be true.

Policy in Egypt

43. The UK’s relationship with Egypt has been central to a number of our foreign policy goals. Egypt has been a key partner on the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), Sudan and Iran and in working towards establishing a Middle East Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. As the most populous country in the Arab world, housing a significant proportion of the pan-Arab media and hosting a leading religious authority at Al Azhar, Egypt has acted as a powerful counterweight to radical forces in the region and has been a valuable partner in countering extremism. The UK has significant commercial interests in Egypt. We continue to be the largest foreign direct investor, with over $20bn invested. Almost 1.5m British tourists visited Egypt in 2010.

44. In contrast to Tunisia, internal tensions had been visible in Egypt for some time and there were a number of events during 2010, which brought them into sharp focus. These included:

· The return of Mohamed El Baradei to Egypt in February 2010, with his call for greater democracy and respect for human rights

· The illness of President Mubarak during March 2010, which increased the focus on a possible successor, with intense debate about the possible succession of Gamal Mubarak

· The death of Khaled Said in the hands of the Egyptian police on 6 June 2010 and subsequent public outrage against such abuses (the UK led the EU response in drafting and issuing a local EU statement expressing concern over the circumstances of Khaled Said’s death and the outcome of the second autopsy).

· Parliamentary elections in November 2010, which resulted in a significantly less representative Parliament, which in turn would have had important ramifications for the Presidential elections expected in November 2011.

45. The growing size of the subsidy bill and skills gap also indicated a need for fundamental economic and educational reform to address the demands of the population. Prior to events in Tunisia, it was unclear how a challenge to the regime might manifest itself and it seemed most likely that the handover of power from President Mubarak to a possible successor would be the focus of popular opposition. But there was no doubt growing internal dissatisfaction with the Egyptian regime carried strong risks.

46. We judged that the absence of a strong secular opposition, limited political space and repression of dissent carried short and long-term risks to our policy in Egypt. The high likelihood of instability had implications for British business and carried a risk that Egypt would follow a more populist foreign policy, particularly in relation to Israel, as a way of distracting attention from internal concerns. Continued repression also carried risks for radicalisation. Reform in Egypt would support regional stability and British interests.

47. In light of the growing risks, we took action to:

· Widen our range of contacts and deepen our relationships in a way that would allow an improved understanding of the challenges facing Egypt.

· Increase dialogue on succession issues. The Foreign Secretary visited Egypt on 4–5 November 2010. During his meeting with Gamal Mubarak, he stressed the importance of a strong secular opposition in ensuring stability, sustainable growth and a modern, outward looking economy.

· Broaden our efforts to deliver what the Egyptians wanted in a number of fields, including in education and skills for employability, economic reform and service delivery, civil service reform, and trade and investment. These were important drivers of unrest and were also important in developing a greater level of trust, which was needed if Egypt was to accept our support in addressing more politically sensitive human rights issues.

48. The November 2010 elections were an obvious trigger point for internal unrest. In advance of the elections, we supported, with EU partners, the development of civil society capacity to participate in and monitor elections. We also pressed the Egyptian authorities to ensure elections were free and fair and to allow international observers. When the ruling National Democratic Party took over 90% of the seats, we raised concerns about the credibility of the results with our Egyptian interlocutors and stressed the importance of Presidential elections due to be held in 2011 being transparent, free and fair.

49. We also worked to ensure that the EU’s relationship with Egypt encouraged reform, strongly supporting the EU’s position that the EU-Egypt Action Plan must be implemented before "Advanced Status" could be considered in the face of opposition from many EU States. We regularly stressed the importance of lifting the State of Emergency and had offered technical support to develop a new counter-terrorism law to enable this to happen more rapidly. We also raised concerns about sectarian tensions and freedom of religion.

Social media and digital communications

50. Internet penetration and the uptake of social media in MENA was growing at an astounding rate prior to the Arab Spring. Across the region, internet penetration grew 2400% between 2000 and 2010 , increasing access to the web in communities beyond the educated, English - speaking elite. This was six times more than the average for the rest of the world. The growth of social media in the last two years was an even more striking phenomenon with young, tech savvy groups using it to exchange information, chat and organise themselves.  Egypt was a particular centre for regional blogging.

51. The FCO was well aware of the phenomenon and had responded with a strategic communications programme launched in June 2009,  known internally as ‘Partners for Progress" (P4P) and with a five year timeline.   Yearly objectives and the identification of target audiences are devolved to posts and tied to Country Business Plans.  However, the overarching campaign objectives are:

· To increase awareness, understanding and positive recognition of UK policies in the region

· To be seen as a partner of choice for business, education, sport and government relations

· To improve trust and positive perception of UK

52. By the end of 2010, the leaders of the Middle East communications team had achieved unprecedented reach and impact-founded on training and mentoring a network of 30 regional press officers in strategic communications.  The result was a trebling of outputs in terms of interviews, articles and creative public diplomacy projects, backed by astute media handling. The legacies of Iraq and Afghanistan have not undermined UK objectives. Instead our intentions have been underpinned by a compelling narrative and proactive stance. Attempts by Qadhafi to characterise UK action as a grab for oil and by the Syrian regime to label it colonialism have found no purchase in once fertile ground.

53. By the time the Arab Spring arrived, every post had an English and Arabic website and a Facebook site with several thousand fans.  Some, including in Egypt and Tunisia, had twitter accounts with strong followings. Five Ambassadors were wri ting blogs, of which HMA Cairo’s was most successful in being picked up by a wide range of traditional and digital media outlets (among other plaudits he was nominated as one of Islam Online’s Stars of 2009).  These digital tools proved essential in getting out the UK’s political message during and after the crisis.  They were also invaluable for our consular assistance to British Nationals.  Traffic to the ‘UK in Tunisia’ and ‘UK in Egypt’ pages increased by several hundred percent during the crisis.  

54. Staff had been trained in social media monitoring for political insight and in November 2010 all MENA posts had been commissioned to report formally on the development of their local digital landscapes.  These investigations did not pick up any indication of what was about to happen, but nevertheless our ground work prove d to be prescient. In July 2011, Clinton ’s A dvisor for I nnovation Ben Scott described how "when the Arab Spring broke, and the role of social media came into focus, we had to peddle very hard just to get close to where the Brits were".

Language skills and regional expertise

55. In November 2010, MENAD launched its ‘MENA Cadre’ initiative. This was part of the Diplomatic Excellence initiative which the FCO launched to achieve the Foreign Secretary’s vision of a distinctive British Foreign Policy.

56. As MENA Director, Dr Christian Turner, outlined in his June 2011 letter to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Cadre initiative’s principal objective is to ensure that the FCO has the right linguistic and geographic expertise to operate in the MENA region in years to come. Its activities are organised under three strands: building expertise and knowledge, strategic workforce planning to ensure that we have the right officers for the right jobs, and promoting and building a community of MENA experts within the FCO.

57. A key part of the initiative is a renewed effort on language skills, which the Foreign Secretary has prioritised.  We have therefore:

· restored the length of initial full time Arabic training to 18 months and are working with external experts to improve the content and rigour of the Arabic programme;

· provided more opportunities and encouragement to staff in London to learn and maintain foreign languages, with weekly conversation classes for existing Arabic speakers, a 12-month beginners Arabic class (to which over 60 FCO staff have subscribed), and French classes;

· reclassified approximately 20 existing jobs at MENA posts overseas as speaker slots, as part of a wider FCO uplift in speaker slots. Once trained staff are in place, this will represent an approximate 40% increase in Arabic speaker capacity in the network compared to 2010 levels; there are now approximately 70 speaker slots in the overseas MENA network (compared to a total of approximately 155 UK-based staff). In MENAD in London, we have over 30 officers who speak Arabic, Farsi or French to operational standard (about a quarter of the Directorate).

58. The transfer of the MENA Research Group from Research Analysts Department to MENAD in July 2010 further strengthened the quality of our policy advice. Research Analysts are an integral part of the policy-making process, with their all-source analysis, historical perspective and contacts with external expertise informing-and at times challenging-risk analysis, scenario planning and policy formulation. MENAD has also worked closely with the FCO’s Legal Advisers to ensure that policy-making is fully informed by the international and domestic legal framework.

59. MENA Research Group regularly hosts in-house seminars and roundtables with visiting scholars, the heads of academic and think-tank programmes, and retired Diplomatic Service staff. These expert inputs proved particularly useful during the ‘Arab Spring’, as not only Whitehall policy-makers but also the wider expert world were obliged to change their assumptions about politics in the MENA region. For example, in February FCO Minister Alistair Burt hosted a roundtable with a small group of academic experts to discuss the change in Tunisia and Egypt; in June, MENA Directorate hosted the latest of a series of biannual discussions with heads of Middle East programmes in UK universities and think tanks; and at the end of June, the FCO hosted a panel discussion on ‘the Arab Spring as viewed from the Foreign Office’ at the annual conference of the British Society for Middle East Studies in Exeter. Throughout the ‘Arab Spring’, MENA Research Group has also produced a monthly digest of the best external analysis of developments in the region.

60. The MENA Cadre initiative also extends to consolidating the regional expertise of FCO policy officers. This year, MENA Research Group has been running heavily subscribed seminars on MENA history and politics for staff across the FCO. In the second half of FY 2011/12, several of our Embassies and MENAD teams in London will run teach-ins on various aspects of MENA politics and society, drawing on the Expertise Fund launched earlier this year by Human Resources Directorate.


UK policy in the MENA region

61. In his speech to the National Assembly in Kuwait on 22 February 2011, the Prime Minister set out the parameters of the UK’s Arab Partnership approach to the Arab Spring-an approach based on upholding universal values, rights and freedoms, with respect for the different cultures, histories and traditions of the countries in the region.

62. As outlined in the FCO’s 2010 Human Rights and Democracy report, prior to the Arab Spring, the Government had raised concerns at violations of fundamental human rights principles in Iran, Iraq, Israel and the OPTs, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

63. However, in his speech the Prime Minister acknowledged that in the past, the UK may not have always been consistent in this approach. He noted that it was clear that the tension between promoting the UK’s interests and values now presented ‘a false choice.’

64. The Arab Spring has dramatically borne this out, demonstrating that our interests are best served by maintaining consistency in this approach. This does not mean that our policy response should be the same in each country-each country is different and our response varies accordingly. However, we should remain consistent in our approach that political and economic reform-not repression-is the only guarantor of security and prosperity in the MENA region. That is why in Libya we acted swiftly to prevent the massacre of citizens there. In Bahrain, following the unrest, the government entered into a dialogue with opposition parties, the King announced the end of the state of emergency in June and proposed reforms. We condemned the violence and are strongly urging Bahrain’s leaders to see through credible and meaningful reforms, and end ongoing human rights abuses. An Independent Commission of Inquiry has been set up to do this. It is expected to report in October and we look forward to seeing its findings. And in Syria, the EU has adopted additional sanctions on those responsible for, or associated with, the unacceptable and brutal repression.

65. The Arab Spring is still unfolding, and its full implications will not be known for many years. However, in reappraising our policy approach towards the region there are already certain Arab Partnership principles and lessons we are adopting:

· These are Arab revolutions. It is not for us to dictate the pace or nature of change-the Arab Spring has been led by people of the region.

· The Arab Spring has shown that demands for political and economic freedom will spread more widely and by themselves, not because western nations advocate these things, but because they are the natural aspirations of all people everywhere. Respect for human rights and dignity, including freedom of expression and equality of women, are universal values that must underline all political systems-there are no justified exceptions.

· This does not mean one form of democracy fits all. Each country is different and has the right to develop its own political model.

· However there is an important role for the UK to play: to be clear about our values (including when election results do not favour our immediate interests) and support reformers in the region.

· We should ensure that there are sufficient resources to support political and economic reform opportunities in the MENA region.

· And develop a joined-up approach across HMG in our response to the Arab Spring. We are working to ensure a consistent narrative in our approach to the Arab Spring.

· Work with a range of regional and international partners, including governments, civil society, the media, judiciary, youth organisations, political parties and parliaments to promote and support inclusive political and economic development.

Response to events in Tunisia

66. Demonstrations in Tunisia began during December 2010 and reached a level unprecedented during Ben Ali’s rule in early January. Initial UK interventions were focused on respect for human rights, stressing the need to allow demonstrations to proceed and to avoid repression. Ministers publically urged the Ben Ali government to respect the rights of the demonstrators. The Tunisian Ambassador was called in to see Director MENAD, and we joined EU partners in making a number of interventions in Tunis, including a meeting with the Foreign Minister. There was some evidence as protests continued that Ben Ali understood that fundamental political change was required. The reform package he offered on 14 January made immediate commitments on human rights and on a democratic transition by 2014. But the offer was too little, too late.

67. Following the establishment of an initial national unity government, we made early contact at a senior level to encourage the development of a broad-based government, which would involve Tunisians from across the political spectrum in the transition process and establish a clear plan for moving the country towards free and fair elections. The Foreign Secretary was the first foreign minister to visit Tunisia after the interim government was established. The swiftness of this response has been widely recognised in Tunisia as putting the UK at the forefront of those supporting the transition. As protests about the composition of the government continued we continued to emphasise core principles, stressing that we believed the government should be broad-based and inclusive, but its composition was a matter for the Tunisian people to decide.

68. We also took action to ensure the international community offered the right assistance, both to build political capacity and expertise in Tunisia and to ensure that the economy remained stable. We lobbied hard within the EU to ensure a rapid decision on freezing of assets belonging to Ben Ali and his family and an EU package of support. And we worked closely with the IFIs on a package of economic support.

69. A more detailed account of events and HMG activity in Tunisia is at Annex A.

The transition period

70. The interim government in Tunisia has made steady progress towards a transition to democracy. Although there have been a number of strikes and regular protests during the transitional period, there has been a relatively high degree of consensus on the overall handling of the transition. A wide range of interest groups have been represented on the "High Authority for Achievement of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition", which functions as a pseudo-Parliament. The interim government itself has been made up of technocrats, a range of civil society and opposition figures. Members of the government are required to resign if they wish to stand in the elections. We have developed good contacts with key ministers in the transition government including the prime minister. The authorities have been open to international assistance, while avoiding making commitments that extend beyond the elections in October.

71. The delay in the election date to 23 October, taken in consultation with political parties, has given more time for preparation. Although only 55% of those eligible to vote had registered by the deadline on 14 August (there is an extended deadline for those who became eligible after 14 August), people will be able to vote with ID cards which identify them as living in their home constituency or with passports if resident abroad. Women represent 45% of registered voters.

72. Over 100 political parties have now registered to participate and there are signs of coalitions forming among party groups. We have developed contacts with the most prominent parties while adhering strictly to our policy of non-interference. The ambitious requirement for gender parity in candidate nominations is a strong indication of Tunisia’s commitment to ensuring women’s views are reflected in the political process. It is expected to lead to a level of female representation in the Constituent Assembly which is unprecedented in any MENA country.

73. Managing the impact of the unrest in Libya has been a major challenge. Both the humanitarian effort and the increased need for border security measures have placed a strain on the Tunisian authorities over and above the transition itself. The return of the Tunisian diaspora from Libya and sharp fall in cross border trade has also had a major economic impact. Continued support from the international community is essential to ease the pressure.

Risks to the transition

74. It looks increasingly likely that elections will go ahead on time. However, there remains a risk that elections will be seen as flawed, leading to a return to the streets. Key risks following the elections include:

· potential difficulty in forming a new coalition government. The transitional government has made clear that it does not expect to continue in power beyond October, but coalition negotiations are new for Tunisia and may take time

· potential difficulty in reaching agreement on a new Constitution. Debates about the shape of the Constitution and the role of the Committee for Political Reform in setting out key principles, have been the cause of one of the main breakdowns in consensus to date, with three political parties, including the Islamist Ennahda party, leaving the High Authority for Political Reform in protest.

75. There are also important economic risks. The revolution and the subsequent unrest in neighbouring Libya have had a serious impact on industrial production, tourism and trade. There is a risk that public support for the transition will evaporate unless the Tunisian economy is able to develop and to meet citizens’ aspirations for a better life. In the short term, agreed packages of support from the International Financial Institutions (World Bank, African Development Bank and EIB) have helped to stabilise the economy. But further assistance will be needed.

Response to events in Egypt

76. When demonstrations demanding the end of Mubarak’s rule in Egypt began on 25 January, it was already clear that stability in Egypt required a process of political change (see paras 45–47). Our assessment was that Mubarak did not intend to step down immediately. But we believed that what was required was an orderly transition to a more democratic system, through creation of a broad-based government including opposition figures. It was also essential in the short-term to avoid violent repression (more than 500 demonstrators had been arrested in the first two days of demonstrations) and lift restrictions on freedom of expression.

77. There was sustained UK engagement with all our Egyptian interlocutors on these points, as well as with key figures in the international community. In addition to lobbying by embassy staff and senior officials in London, this included at least 20 contacts by Cabinet Ministers in a three week period. Again, there was some change in the position of the Egyptian government, which announced a dialogue with opposition groups on 2 February, but this was not sufficient to assuage the demands of protestors.

78. Following Mubarak’s resignation, decision-making power passed to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF made a number of commitments, including to transfer power to a new civilian and democratically elected government and to uphold international and regional treaty obligations, including with Israel. Our view of what was required in Egypt was similar to our position in Tunisia: the Egyptian authorities needed to put in place a clear programme for moving the country towards elections and engage with the opposition and activists as part of that process. We supported work in the EU on asset freezing, including by freezing more than £40 million of assets in the UK. We met a range of Egyptian figures to discuss the economic situation and worked with the EU, the US and IFIs to ensure that support was available if requested by Egypt.

The transition period

79. There has been less consensus in Egypt than in Tunisia and the transition period has been marked by continued large-scale protests by a range of opposition groups. These have related both to the SCAF’s handling of the transition, for example the timing of elections and the trial of former regime figures, and to the overall vision of the state Egypt should become. There have been continued sectarian tensions between Christians and Muslims as well as strong disagreements between different Muslim groups about what the final constitutional settlement should look like.

80. The FCO’s overarching priority is to see Egypt continue as an effective commercial and political partner of the UK, contributing to peace and stability in the region and representing an example of successful reform. We have continued to press the Egyptian authorities on human rights concerns, for example the continued use of military courts to try civilians, and to stress the dangers of extremism and sectarianism. We have put in place a range of programmes to support the development of the building blocks of democracy and have continued to offer support, although the Egyptian authorities remain cautious about being seen to accept international assistance.

81. A more detailed account of events and HMG activity in Egypt is at Annex B.

Risks to the transition

82. The political process, leading to Parliamentary elections in November, a Constitution ratified by referendum and Presidential elections, still faces a number of uncertainties including:

· disagreements between the centrists and Islamists over the nature of the Egyptian State as defined in the future Constitution;

· challenges to the authority of the Supreme Military Council which oversees the transition, including the over the question of the Army’s role under a future Constitution;

· potential security and organisational difficulties in holding the elections, with the risk of the results not being accepted as bestowing legitimacy of the future political order.

83. The authorities have declined offers of international support to deliver the elections, due to a strong attachment to national independence and rejection of perceived interference in Egyptian affairs.

84. The Egyptian economy has already suffered from a downturn in activity, caused in part by a fall in tourism revenues and exacerbated by a loss of investor confidence and an outflow of funds, in the wake of the revolution. An extended transition period and a lack of progress in delivering economic benefits could increase popular discontent. Government since the revolution has already made a number of public spending commitments and may be unable to make further concessions in the future. Delays to the implementation of difficult long-term structural reform policies would reduce the government’s ability to rein in public spending and store up problems for the future.

85. Law and order has declined to some extent since the revolution. The police and security forces are being rebuilt and adapted to the new national context in which the rule of law and the rights of citizens are held to be paramount. But challenges remain. An important current security challenge is in North Sinai, where largely local armed elements, some of whom have Islamist agendas, have taken advantage of the drop in security cover since the revolution to assert a degree of control. There are also small groups with jihadi agendas and with links to similar groups in the Gaza Strip. By agreement with Israel, Egypt had already increased by over 2,000 troops its presence in the border zone (governed by the Camp David Accords). However, a serious violent incident took place on 18–19 August when an armed group entered Israel from the Sinai and attacked civilian traffic on the road from Eilat. The group were all killed shortly after by the combined action of Israeli forces and Egyptian border guards. We understand that during this action a number of Egyptian border guards were killed. Prime Minister Netanyahu issued an apology, but there was significant anti-Israeli sentiment. Nevertheless, the Egyptian security authorities made clear their determination to continue security co-operation along the common border with Israel.

86. On 9 September, protestors attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, resulting in Israel evacuating most of its diplomatic staff. The Prime Minister issued a statement condemning the attack on the Embassy, urging the Egyptian authorities to meet their responsibilities under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic property and personnel, and encouraging both countries to work together to resolve tensions and enhance regional stability. The Egyptian authorities have re-affirmed Egypt’s commitment to the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel and the protection of diplomatic missions.

87. It is difficult to predict the direction of Egyptian foreign policy in the medium-term. It seems unlikely to change significantly during the transitional period, although there have been some examples of Egypt taking a more active role in regional affairs. Indications that there might be a thaw in Egypt’s relations with Iran have not yet resulted in the restoration of diplomatic relations. Egypt remains the only Arab country not to have relations with Iran.

Supporting transitions in Egypt and Tunisia through the Arab Partnership Fund

88. To support political transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, this financial year we have allocated from the APPF just under £1m and £1.05m respectively. This support is complemented by MENA regional projects covering Egypt and Tunisia to strengthen public voice and anti-corruption efforts (e.g. BBC Arabic Question Time programming) and substantial support (exact allocations to be determined in October 2011) from the Economic Facility.

89. We are ready to increase these allocations as further opportunities arise to support transitions-as for instance the elections in Egypt. However, on the political side, we believe this approximate level of resources is well pitched-the problem is not a lack of funding but lack of recipient capacity. Also a significant up-lift would risk duplicating existing donor efforts (e.g. USAID have spent $250m p.a. on Economic Governance for at least 10 years, and have shifted significant funding to their Egyptian Government and Democracy Fund) and exacerbate existing tensions about international interference.

90. In both Egypt and Tunisia, our bilateral programmes work with a diverse range of actors including government, political parties, parliament, the judiciary, media and civil society. We are delivering through both strategic HMG partners including BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) and the British Council, and local partners. We are working with BBC-WST in Egypt and Tunisia to provide technical expertise for state-broadcasters’ reform programmes, and in partnership with BBC Arabic, to develop media programming enabling open, constructive political and social dialogue. We are also working with the British Council in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria on a range of projects drawing on their wide local networks and expertise in areas such as the promotion of youth employability through vocational training (including English for employability), and youth engagement in political debate.

91. In Egypt, to date the Arab Partnership is providing just under £1m of targeted bilateral support for the political transition. This is likely to be complemented with another £400,000 of support to be finalised in the next month, including for BBC-WST to provide advice and technical assistance on reform of the Egyptian state broadcaster, and additional assistance in the run-up to elections.

Individual projects from the Arab Partnership Participation Fund include:

Political Participation and public voice:

· Support for Westminster Foundation for Democracy work to strengthen parliamentary and party systems (£158,000). Post-elections, WFD will focus on party-to-party training and mentoring to strengthen governance structures in Egyptian political parties, including youth and women representation.

· A project led by Global Partners to develop consensus among political parties on the role of parliament as an oversight body, and to provide advice and support on parliamentary reform post-elections (£123,000).

· A series of workshops and round-tables led by Chatham House to facilitate inclusive political debates on critical transition issues (£135,000). The most recent event, in late June, included a discussion with representatives of the major political parties on democratic transitions and a workshop for media representatives on the role of the media, particularly during elections. The next event, scheduled for late September, is on economic policy, and will involve government figures as well as political parties and civil society.

Rule of law, anti-corruption:

· Two projects-one led by the OECD and the other by Global Partners-working with government and civil society to improve access to information and increase transparency (value £176,000 and £106,000 respectively)

· A pilot project led by an Egyptian NGO (Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights), in co-operation with the Interior Ministry, to establish human rights units in places of detention (£50,000).

Youth employability

· A project to establish a Centre of Excellence for English language teaching, led by British Council (£150,000 in 2011/12).

92. Our support for the political transition in Egypt will be complemented by support through the Arab Partnership Economic Facility (APEF). The APEF will focus in the transitional period on what can be done to lay the ground work for future economic reforms once elections have taken place and a new government formed. We will continue to closely monitor the economic risks and outlook and other donors’ assistance to ensure APEF funding is well targeted and does not duplicate efforts.

93. An APEF scoping team visited Cairo in July and identified a number of areas for further exploration. These include:

· Public financial management-the Ministry of Finance has made a direct request for support on PFM. Without critical and timely information, Egypt will continue to struggle to manage its finances. PFM is an area where DFID has expertise. We will follow up this request with DFID, drawing on their expertise. The Ministry has also requested assistance on its communications work. We will follow up with HMT drawing on their experience in this area. Building on this transparency agenda, we will also consider how the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative could be positioned so that following parliamentary elections, it is on the new Government’s agenda.

· Small and medium-sized enterprise development-the Egyptian authorities have requested DFID assistance to build the capacity of business development service providers and to increase SME access to finance. We are also discussing with the World Bank their plans to provide technical assistance on expanding access to finance.

· Research and advocacy-we will look at opportunities to support national researchers and practitioners to identify and disseminate solutions to key national socio-economic problems and to use the findings to inform policy formulation and programme implementation.

94. An uplift in human resources in Cairo is supporting the implementation of the UK’s Transition Strategy for Egypt, including through managing the Arab Partnership programme.

95. We have also increased resources at the Embassy in Tunis to implement a range of projects supporting the transition there.

96. Through the Human Rights and Democracy Fund we provided rapid expert support in March to the Tunisian electoral preparations. The AP programme in Tunisia provides technical assistance to the government, media and civil society in the run-up to elections, enhancing the space for-and quality of-political participation and public voice, and promoting greater transparency and accountability. We are also providing micro-credit support for vulnerable returnees from Libya-here our contribution of under £150,000 has unlocked other donor funding over £1m. The AP Participation Fund is supporting 11 projects in Tunisia worth £1.1m, including:

Political participation and public voice

· Voter outreach and education ahead of elections, focusing on women and youth in rural areas, led by Electoral Reform International Services (£133,000-unlocking a matching amount from the Belgian government)

· Support for the development of a media code of conduct to ensure balanced and accurate election coverage, led by the Thompson Foundation (£20,000)

· An Article 19 project to strengthen legislative protection for freedom of expression in the constitution and national laws (£152,000)

· Westminster Foundation for Democracy work to support nascent political parties and parliamentary structures (£145,000)-delivered in the post-election phase through party to party training, and working with selected committees in the Constituent Assembly to strengthen their capacity for evidence-based, inclusive debate.

Cooperation with a local research organisation to develop national polling capacity (providing an evidence base for policy development) (£30,000). Our contribution is helping unlock US funding equivalent to £95,000.

· A BBC World Service Trust project to provide technical assistance and advice to restructure and reform the Tunisian state broadcaster (Tunisian TV) (£147,000)

Rule of law and anti-corruption

· Work by the OECD to strengthen the government’s corruption prevention capacities, working with the newly formed National Anti-Corruption Commission (£86,000)

· Technical assistance from the International Centre for Transitional Justice to develop greater accountability and transparency in the security and justice sector through piloting new vetting procedures for staff (£90,000).

97. Tunisia is also a priority country for early support from the AP Economic Facility. Following a mission to Tunis in June, we are exploring a number of proposals for immediate assistance.

98. We are considering proposals with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to :

· Boost entrepreneurship-to provide seed funding to support and mentor innovative young entrepreneurs and non-profit civil society organizations, as well as creating a platform for knowledge sharing.

· Improve public financial management-the Tunisian authorities have requested assistance to strengthen the quality and performance of the public procurement system. In spite of the progress made with the national procurement system so far, significant and important weaknesses still persist that affect the principles of efficiency and transparency.

99. In addition to country specific activities, we are also discussing with the Multilateral Development Banks a number of multi-country proposals. These include discussions with the EBRD on the geographic expansion of the operations to the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and with the IBRD on their Arab World Initiative for Food Security. In addition to the AfDB, we will also explore opportunities to work with other regional institutions such as the Islamic Development Bank.

100. The Arab Partnership has also approved two projects covering both Egypt and Tunisia: to tackle corruption in both countries (£83,000); and a British Council project to engage government, the private sector and education providers in developing a strategy for improving youth employability (£97,000).

101. Additionally, Egypt and Tunisia are central to several multi-country projects aimed at strengthening public voice and encouraging a culture of debate. These include a joint Anna Lindh Foundation/British Council project to encourage debate and exchange among young people in the region (£190,000 in 2011/12); the Cairo and Tunis debates programme, based on Tim Sebastian’s popular Doha Debates series (joint funded with the Swedish Development Agency-UK contribution around £350,000); and a BBC Arabic version of Question Time (£700,000).

Supporting transitional countries through a multilateral approach: EU and G8

G8 action

102. We are working through the G8 to coordinate a comprehensive international response to the Arab Spring. The "Deauville Partnership," which was announced at the G8 summit on 27 May will support and encourage MENA countries to put in place economic and social reforms, and act as an umbrella for reform-related assistance in the MENA region by G8 Partners. The Partnership has two pillars: an economic framework (run by Finance Ministers) to promote sustainable, inclusive growth; and a political process (run by Foreign Ministers) to support democratic transition and foster governance reforms.

103. On the Finance Minister’s track, the Deauville Partnership highlighted over $20bn of available support for Egypt and Tunisia from the multilateral development banks, including the European Investment Bank, as well as willingness on the part of other G8 countries to raise their bilateral aid.  Under the Finance Ministers’ process, the Deauville Partners (Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco) are drawing up economic reform plans which will showcase how they are going to support their transitions with sound economic policies and prioritise the areas where they are seeking assistance. This will allow the IFIs and other donors to coordinate their activity making the international response more coherent and effective. The Finance Ministers will also lead on supporting greater trade integration, both within the MENA region, and between the MENA region and other markets.

104. The Foreign Ministers’ track supports the Deauville Partners to put in place the building blocks of democracy, by encouraging governance reforms, in particular: strengthening of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the public voice; supporting civil society; developing education and vocational training and providing political support for the Finance Ministers’ efforts on trade.

105. The Deauville Partnership was targeted initially at Egypt and Tunisia (who met G8 leaders at Deauville) but is open to other MENA countries willing to move towards more open and inclusive societies. The UK pushed strongly for this more open approach arguing that Deauville should recognise those MENA countries who are undertaking reform efforts without undergoing the upheaval of regime-change. As a result, Morocco and Jordan are now also included as Deauville Partners.

EU action

106. The EU responded quickly to events in the Southern Mediterranean. On 8 March the European Commission and the High Representative issued a joint Communication "A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean". This clearly stated the EU's support for the popular call for change, and for more democratic and open societies. This Communication outlined an incentive-based approach ('more for more') to assist political, economic and social reforms in the countries of the region.

107. The Joint Communication on the year-long review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) "A new Response to a Changing Neighbourhood" adopted on 25 May provided additional direction on the EU response. The review presented an ambitious offer to the EU’s reforming neighbours: a new partnership with the EU based on greater economic integration, trade and increased funding for the Southern Neighbourhood. It makes a clear link between levels of EU support and progress on political and economic reform. We were broadly happy with the review since the UK, in concert with like-minded Partners such as the Germans, had argued strongly for the EU to make a bold and ambitious offer to the southern neighbours, especially on trade, coupled with clearer conditionality. The ENP review was endorsed at the June European Council.

108. The Commission services and the EEAS have moved ahead with the preparatory work on implementation of the ENP review, specifically:

a) Screening and refocusing of ongoing EU aid programmes in the Southern Mediterranean countries

109. The Commission services and the EEAS conducted a screening and refocusing of National Indicative Programmes 2011–2013 and Annual Action Plans 2011 with partner Governments with the aim of strengthening areas such as governance, employment and youth. A major package of financing proposals, totalling over €600 million, received a favourable opinion from the Member States on 12 July. Following Commission Decisions, Financing Agreements should be signed with partner countries in the early autumn. A further package of measures, with a combined budget of €125 million, has been prepared. This constant screening and adjustment will continue. Specifically on Egypt and Tunisia:

Tunisia: the EU has allocated €50 million of additional funds to a new programme for impoverished areas (€20 million) and to beef up an existing programme of reform support through the budget to re-launch the economy (total budget now €90 million);

Egypt: the EU has replaced two planned programmes for de-mining and ‘family empowerment’ with one for SME development in rural areas (€22 million).

Support to Tunisia and Egypt through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and Non-state Actors (NSA) programmes has been strengthened.

b) Provision of additional funds for Southern Mediterranean Countries

In Cairo on 14 July, the President of the European Commission announced the new SPRING (Support for Partnership Reform and Inclusive Growth) umbrella programme. In this framework, additional funds will, pending agreement of the budgetary authority be made available (€343 million for 2011/2012 combined) on a more for more basis to those countries showing progress in reforms. Additional funds will be focused on democratisation and institution building as well as on inclusive growth.

c) Increase in participation of the young from Southern Mediterranean Countries in Youth Exchange Programmes

In 2011, the EU will provide an additional €20 million for Erasmus Mundus so as to allow for increased participation of students from Southern Mediterranean and Eastern European Countries. Preparations are under way to ensure that this could allow up to 750 student scholarships in the 2011–2012 academic year. In addition, €29 million has been earmarked for a Youth in Action programme for 2012.

d) The new approach on partnership for migration, mobility and security

Following endorsement by the European Council of the European Commission’s proposals on mobility, the Commission has launched exploratory technical talks with Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, with the possibility of this being extended to other countries, such as Jordan. It is hoped that an agreement on the content of proposed mobility partnerships can be reached and signed by Commission, Member States and the partner countries by the end of 2011 in the case of Morocco and mid-2012 in the case of Egypt and Tunisia.

e) Enhancing trade and investment with Southern Mediterranean neighbours

Following the European Council’s endorsement, the European Commission has reviewed on-going negotiations with a view to accelerate them, and is preparing negotiating mandates for the negotiation of deep and comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia so as to submit them to Member States after the summer.

f) Enhanced political dialogue

At the suggestion of the High Representative, the Council has appointed a Special Representative (EUSR) for the South Mediterranean. The main role of the EUSR is to enhance the EU's political dialogue, contributing to the partnership and broader relationship with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean region.

g) Increase in European Investment Bank (EIB) lending to the region by an additional EUR 1 billion

The Council agreed on 18 July that the ceiling for EIB operations for Mediterranean countries undertaking political reform should be increased by €1 billion. This should be implemented by November this year.

Policy towards Islamist movements

110. Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region were the result of a diverse range of citizens demanding a better political and economic deal. They were not instigated by Islamist groups and did not target Islamist goals. However, groups from across the political spectrum have sought to use the events to increase their public presence and advance their agenda. This is most apparent in Tunisia and Egypt where the former governments’ ability to manage and manipulate society was disrupted. Among these newly activist groups are some we feel less comfortable with, including some Islamist political parties and extremist groups and individuals. It is important to make clear that these are widely diverse actors and not necessarily linked.

111. It is also important to underline that these manifestations are not particularly new. For many years, the MENA region has seen a diverse range of Islamist political parties. Some participate in parliamentary politics, as in Kuwait; others are banned, as in the Tunisian Ennahda party prior to the fall of Ben Ali. Others occupy a more ambiguous position, as for example was the case for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood prior to the fall of Mubarak. Some are involved in violence, as in the case of Hizballah in Lebanon.

112. While these are not new phenomena, the ‘Arab Spring’ has changed the dynamics. With the fall of Ben Ali and Mubarak, Islamist political parties are working to advance their political message. These parties can now operate legally, some exiled leaders have returned, and it is likely that some will make gains in elections. However, these parties are also having to adapt to the new environment, there are frequently tensions between the leadership and younger members and they have yet to demonstrate to the electorate that they can deliver through public office.

113. Islamist parties can be expected to play an important political role in Egypt, Tunisia and other transition countries and may well participate in government. FCO policy has been to engage with Islamist groups which are committed to the democratic process, operate within the law of their country, reject violence as a means of achieving political change and agree to respect international agreements . We will interact with such parties in government if that it is the will of the people. It is wrong to assume that such parties will always be hostile to UK interests.  In Turkey, for example, we have developed a successful partnership with a government which has Islamist roots.  Nevertheless, we firmly believe that a failure to support reform on the basis that it may lead to governments less well disposed towards the UK will only exacerbate existing problems in the region and damage our long-term interests.


114. Separate to the activity of Islamist political parties, the MENA region has seen other trends in recent years that contribute to extremism:

· A growth in Salafism, a train of thought within Sunni Islam which aspires to return to the purity of early Islam (from "salaf" meaning predecessors). Whilst Salafism should not be equated with extremism, the extremely orthodox interpretation lends itself to extremist ideologies

· Increased Sunni-Shi’a tensions in the countries of the Arabian Peninsula;

· Sectarianism in the Levant

· Al-Qa’ida continuing to present a threat in and from the region, but failing to broaden its support.

115. In many countries, the ‘Arab Spring’ has made the local environment more permissive for extremist preachers and groups who harass their fellow citizens. For example, in Egypt, the security situation in the North Sinai has allowed local armed groups to assert a degree of control (see para 85). In the Arabian Peninsula, Sunni-Shi’a tensions have been aggravated by events in Bahrain. In the Levant, the uprising in Syria has also heightened sectarian tension; the Syrian government has mobilised loyalist gangs and is stoking minority fears of a Sunni uprising. The ‘Arab Spring’ presents a fundamental challenge to Al-Qa’ida’s narrative that violence is necessary to achieve political change. However it is possible that in the short term at least, some local counter-terrorism capabilities have been distracted by unrest, and conflict in Yemen and the Maghreb might yet revive Al-Qa’ida’s fortunes.

116. It remains to be seen whether Islamist political parties will present a challenge to the development of democratic states and improved human rights (including of women and minorities), and if extremist groups will also gain a wider following. Much will depend on whether political reform in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere leads to more inclusive, transparent, accountable and effective institutions. Citizen confidence in the political process, political parties being held to account for what they deliver, growing economic opportunity and serious measures to tackle corruption will all help to counter the extremist narrative. In the wider region, political progress in Libya, Bahrain and Syria in particular would reduce the likelihood of further polarisation. And it remains necessary to continue to work for progress on the Middle East Peace Process.

Islamism in Tunisia

117. The leading Tunisian Islamist movement, Ennahda, was founded during the 1980s in response to the secularist policies of President Bourguiba. It was later banned by President Ben Ali after it won 17% of the vote in parliamentary elections in 1989. In the subsequent crack-down on political Islam in Tunisia, the co-founder and head of the party, Rachid Ghannouchi, was tried and convicted in absentia on two counts of carrying out terrorist activities. The judicial proceedings were widely condemned as unfair and Ghannouchi was subsequently granted asylum in the UK in 1993. By January 2011, there had been no visible presence of the party in Tunisia for 20 years. The presence of Rachid Ghannouchi in the UK was also a major factor affecting our relations with Tunisia. FCO officials had had no recent contact with the movement.

118. The interim government’s decision at the end of January to implement an amnesty for political exiles saw Ghannouchi’s return to Tunisia and the Ennahda party was legalised on 1 March. Although there are other Islamist groups in post-revolution Tunisia, including Hizb Ettahrir and a number of smaller and more extreme groups, Ennahda is unique in gaining legal status as a political party. The party is well-organised and present across Tunisia with a large number of activists and significant financial means. Party leaders have made clear their support for the democratic process and willingness to accept its restrictions, including the requirement for gender parity in candidate nominations.

119. There are accusations that Ennahda’s statements to international and domestic audiences are not always consistent and that their policy is presented differently to the Tunisian media than it is in the mosques. For example, it is alleged that Ennahda members have told more religiously conservative voters that "Islam is a package and you have to take the whole package". We assess that, despite the ambiguity over the exact programme the party intends to follow, Ennahda’s commitment to the democratic process and rejection of violence is sincere. We have therefore met Ennahda representatives at official level in London and Tunisia. We have not ruled out Ministerial contact. However, given the very high number of parties established since the revolution (more than 100), we have undertaken all contact at official level to avoid being seen to favour any one group.

Islamism in Egypt

120. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is the most prominent of the Islamist groupings. It has existed as a social force in Egypt since the 1920s. Under the Mubarak regime, it was officially banned and subject to widespread harassment and arrests from the security services, although individuals competed in Parliamentary elections. Since the fall of Mubarak it has had more political space to develop its social justice narrative and as domestic and international donations roll in, it has opened new, expensive headquarters and strengthened its already powerful grassroots base across the country.

121. Prior to the revolution, our Embassy in Cairo maintained low-level contacts with "independent" Parliamentarians representing the MB and with some MB officials. This was consistent with our contact with Egyptian Parliamentarians from other parties and was justified on the basis of the MB’s peaceful political engagement and in recognition of their transformation into the largest and most effective opposition group. In the flawed elections in November/December 2010 the MB withdrew their independent candidates from the second round due to allegations of widespread irregularities and called on their sole successful representative to abandon his seat. However, the MB continued to abstain from violence and remained the main opposition force in Egypt, over licensed opposition parties.

122. MB members were not among the initial activists who sparked the revolution, but they quickly became involved as the revolution gathered pace. The MB (e.g. in statements by Deputy Chairman Rashad al-Bayoumi) made clear that it supported the revolution and called for new elections, the release of all political prisoners and a transitional government that included representatives from all opposition groups.  It also indicated that it did not want the revolution to be portrayed as an Islamic one, that it had not called for violence and would not do so. On 2 February the Egyptian Government announced that it planned to involve the MB in its dialogue with opposition groups and on 4 February, the MB publicly acknowledged it would join this.

123. It was clear that the MB was likely to be influential in political discussions about the progress of the revolution, a view that was reinforced by our discussions with Egyptian secular opposition groups. Given this, we took action to extend the range of our MB contacts at official level to include any members who were likely to become part of the dialogue, providing they were willing to reject violence as a means of achieving political change, support constitutional principles and accept international agreements agreed by the previous regime, including those agreed with Israel. The Foreign Secretary met a member of t he Muslim Brotherhood during his visit to Egypt on 2 May.

124. Salafist movements became increasingly visible in Egypt during the summer of 2011. Salafists groups are less coherent than the MB, which has a long history of organised political activity, but we have seen a steady Salafi advance into the political and religious space through speeches, statements and activity in mosques.

125. On 29 July, a range of Salafist organisations, the MB, and the Gamaa Islamiya held a large protest in Cairo and other cities. The messages included calls for an Islamic state, anti-Semitic and anti-US chants, and support for the SCAF. The ability of Salafi movements to mobilise supporters, fund and tightly organise their activity was higher than observers had previously assessed. The display of Salafi strength has changed the dynamics of the relationships between the Salafi groups, the MB, Sufi groups and the secular/liberal parties, which are now re-evaluating their political tactics. 

126. The UK has not sought formal contact with Salafist groups in Egypt, given the lack of an overtly political role by the Salafis under Mubarak and the association of some groups with the use of violence to obtain their goals. However, we continue to review appropriate contact with all political players in Egypt.

Impact of the Arab Spring on regional foreign policy

127. The Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry has an initial focus on events in Egypt and Tunisia, but will also consider the implications for regional security and reform elsewhere in the Arab World. While the full impact of the Arab Spring cannot yet be assessed -we are arguably still at its beginning-it is already clear that it has irrevocably changed political and social landscapes in the Arab world.

128. The following factors can also be highlighted as impacting on countries of the region (albeit at different paces and in different ways):

· New-found confidence amongst citizens to demand their legitimate rights and freedoms: an immediate impact of successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia was to lift the ‘fear factor’ amongst citizens across the region. Even highly conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia did not wholly escape domestic protests-though they were contained in nature. These demands have been principally articulated as national demands for economic opportunities and political representation rather than appealing to pan-Islamic or pan-Arab values.

· Increase in subsidies and state benefits across the region: Alongside announcements of reform, many countries have introduced increased subsidies and citizen benefits in an attempt to quell discontent. For instance, in Oman, in response to calls for change in February/March, as well as ordering a Cabinet reshuffle on 8 March, the Sultan announced a number of reforms, including economic measures, focussing on tackling unemployment, the establishment of 50,000 new jobs for Omanis, and an increase in job seekers’ allowance and the statutory minimum wage. In Egypt, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has announced a 15% increase in wages and pensions for civil servants. Although these changes have offered temporary respite for governments, they are in effect simply storing up economic problems for the future.

· Increase in brutal repression: While some countries have responded to citizen demands for change with announcements of political and economic reform, others, including governments in Libya, Syria and Yemen responded with brutal repression (although these governments’ willingness to deploy violent tactics against their citizens was not new).

· Increased prominence of Gulf states as donors: Prior to the Arab Spring, wealthy Gulf states were already increasing their profile as active donors in the region. During the Arab Spring, they have pledged substantial amounts of funding for neighbouring countries. This has included Gulf Cooperation Council funds of $20bn for Oman and Bahrain, at least $1bn of Saudi funding for Jordan, and promises of $4bn of emergency Saudi lending for Egypt, and Qatari offers of up to $20bn to support the Egyptian economy. Some of this funding has not yet been delivered. Nevertheless, Western bilateral and multilateral donors, including the G8 and EU, cannot match Gulf resources-raising questions about how we can effectively apply conditionality to our funding when alternative sources of financial support (with no criteria linked to reform) are available. The rejection by the Egyptian government of the IMF’s offer of a $3 billion stand-by facility is a case in point: the (very limited) conditionality that the IMF attached to that funding stream-requesting more transparency of government funding-was one of the reasons cited for the rejection of the funding.

Arms export controls

129. Events in the Middle East and North Africa since December underlined the importance of ensuring that exports of British military equipment continued to be subject to careful scrutiny.  The Foreign Secretary told the Foreign Affairs Committee on 16 March that he would commission a review of HMG’s export controls policy to examine our existing strategic export control system and to determine whether improvements could be made, particularly for equipment that might be used for internal repression.  The review found no evidence that any of the major naval, air or land-based military platforms misused by governments in the MENA region were supplied from the UK.  No substantiated evidence that controlled military goods exported from the UK were used in a manner inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria (the guidance governing strategic export controls). Nevertheless, the review concluded that export controls can and should be strengthened, not only to manage risk more effectively but also to allow HMG to respond in a timelier manner to sudden and unexpected changes.  The Foreign Secretary provided an interim report on the review to Parliament on 18 July with a Written Ministerial Statement.  The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has responsibility for our export licensing operations. He and the Foreign Secretary are now looking at proposals to improve certain aspects of our export control procedures.  The Foreign Secretary will report more fully to Parliament about these in due course.

Reforming countries

130. As a result of increased domestic pressure and higher perceived costs of inaction, a number of governments in the region have announced ambitious political reform processes in response to the Arab Spring. Although it is still too early to assess whether declared reform programmes will deliver tangible change, substantial changes have already started to take shape in some countries. We are supporting countries across the region as they implement reforms, both through our bilateral Arab Partnership and through multilateral institutions, including the EU and G8.

131. In Morocco, King Mohammed VI moved quickly to respond to protests, announcing a programme of political reforms. This process resulted in a new constitution approved by referendum on 1 July. The constitution will strengthen the power of Parliament vis-a-vis the King, including by providing for a Prime Minister to be selected from the largest party in Parliament after elections and enshrining the independence of the judiciary. It also contains additional protections for minority rights and human rights institutions.

132. Under the new constitution, the King is described as the "supreme arbiter" of political and institutional life. He will remain as head of the Ministerial Council and retains the power to dismiss Ministers. While the reforms will not immediately lead to a European-style constitutional monarchy, they are nevertheless an important step. The next key date is that of the elections, set for 25 November.

133. In Algeria, President Bouteflika has lifted the 19-year State of Emergency and embarked on a process of political and social reforms.  The Consultative Commission on Political Reforms has presented its interim report to the President.  The government has also published new draft laws on political parties and associations, elections and information which will be debated by Parliament in its autumn session in 2011.  

134. In Jordan, King Abdullah has also responded to the protests announcing reform. The King has publicly stated his willingness to relinquish some of his own authority, notably a move away from his power to appoint Cabinets towards having elected ones.  He has also spoken out on corruption, demanding accountability. 

135. On 14 July the King announced details of proposed changes to the Constitution, setting out his vision of a reform process based on the principles of a Parliamentary democracy. Once passed by Parliament, this will represent the most significant change to the Constitution since it was introduced in 1952, nevertheless, there has still been criticism from some quarters as the King retains the right to dissolve parliament at will and appoint Prime Ministers.

136. The proposed changes to the Constitution have been submitted to Parliament, and are expected to be approved without significant amendment.  In the mean time, the greatest challenges facing Jordan continue to be the economy and allegations of corruption. 

The Middle East Peace Process

137. Formal negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have remained stalled throughout the Arab Spring period. However, we assess that the Arab Spring makes the need for a durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all the more pressing, and the UK has been encouraging both sides to engage to move the peace process forward. The inability of Palestinians to live their lives in a sovereign and democratic state, with the freedom to govern themselves, will jar increasingly with more positive developments in the region, which risks increasing frustration and fostering radicalisation.

138. Whilst the Arab Spring has so far not radically affected the fundamentals of the Middle East Peace Process, the changes in the regional environment have had real implications for Israel and the Palestinians.

139. The revolution in Egypt has lead to a significant reassessment of Israel’s security arrangements.  Since the fall of Mubarak, Israel has been concerned specifically about less robust security control in the Sinai region of Egypt, which directly borders Israel, and about the Arab Spring and changing attitudes towards Israel more generally.  As Israel recalibrates the state of its relations with Arab Spring countries, including Egypt, this could have implications for Israel’s defence budget, which in real terms has shrunk from 30% of GDP in 1974 to 7% in 2010.

140. Although some groups in Egypt have called for Egypt to abrogate from its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel, many in Egypt still recognise the value of peace with Israel, not least the economic benefits. The Egyptian economy depends on a number of factors directly or indirectly associated with Israel, among them tourism; export of natural gas; revenue from the Suez Canal; and American economic and military assistance ($1.3 billion a year).

141. Israel would also be very concerned about instability in Jordan, which would require Israel to allocate more resources to its defence along its border. So far protests in Jordan have not focussed on the Israel/Palestine issue but rather domestic and economic grievances. However, with 60% of Jordan’s population of Palestinian origin, the potential for domestic protest to expand to cover these areas exists.

142. Developments in Syria are a cause for concern for Israel, since instability in Syria could cause the Syrian government to divert attention from its domestic crisis through confrontation with Israel. This could include encouraging more protests in the Golan heights (as seen in the Nakba demonstrations in May 2011) and through proxy attacks via Hizballah in Lebanon.

143. Iran remains Israel’s primary security concern, outranking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel would be particularly concerned about the expansion of the Iranian influence in the region as a consequence of the Arab Spring. A Shia uprising in Bahrain would therefore have indirect ramifications for Israel.

144. The effect of the Arab Spring on internal Palestinian dynamics has been seen most clearly in the Hamas/Fatah reconciliation agreement of May 2011; a recent poll of Palestinians listed unity as the thing that was most important to them. It is likely that the changes in Syria and Egypt encouraged calls by youth movements for change and a unified Palestinian leadership, harnessing social media. However beyond the initial agreement between the two sides, progress has been limited due to significant underlying differences between the two sides.


145. Iran has responded to the Arab Spring with hypocrisy, attempting to characterise protests in Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain as an "Islamic Awakening" in the mould of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. At the same time, the authorities violently suppressed protests in Iran between February and June and have detained two of Iran’s reformist opposition leaders since February.

146. In addition to the crackdown on its own people that has continued unrelenting since the disputed Presidential elections of 2009, Iran is now providing support to help the Assad regime brutally crush protest in Syria. Iran is clearly unnerved by the potential impact of unrest on its only allied government in the Arab world and fearful of losing its main conduit for support to militant groups in the region, including Hizballah and Hamas. Credible reports show that Iran is providing equipment and technical support from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on how to quash dissent, exporting the same techniques that its authorities have used to create a climate of fear at home.

147. Such Iranian support to Syria is unacceptable. We have called on Iran to desist, and allow protestors in Syria to express their legitimate aspirations and peacefully to call for change without fear of brutal repression. We have also targeted Iran’s help to the Syrian regime under EU sanctions on Syria, most recently designating the IRGC Qods Force for its role in supporting suppression.

148. In addition to Iran’s role in Syria, we continue to have serious concerns about Iran’s wider role in the region. This includes Iran’s well-documented support for militant groups such as the Taleban, Hizballah and Hamas. This is not the behaviour of a responsible neighbour, and amplifies our concern that an Iran emboldened by a nuclear weapons capability would have even greater confidence to meddle in the affairs of the region.

149. We must remain wary of any Iranian efforts to exploit the unrest earlier in the year in Bahrain. We will continue to make clear that any Iranian interference in Bahrain, including attempts to promote sectarian divides, would be unacceptable. As in all countries across the region, it is important that the people of Bahrain are allowed to decide their future themselves.

150. The Arab Spring has shown that governments in the region need to respond with reform and not repression if they are to enhance the long-term stability and prosperity of their countries. So far we have seen no signs that Iran has learnt any of these lessons. We call on the Iranian authorities to seize this opportunity and allow the same rights for those in Iran as it claims to support in other countries in the region.


151. Following continued violence in Syria, especially during Ramadan (August 2011) many Arab states have recalled Ambassadors and recognised that the Assad regime has no serious plans for reform or for securing a peaceful transition. Events in Libya have mobilised public opinion both within Syria and in the rest of the Arab world even further. However, unrest in Syria has worried regional states and has left them exposed to political, social and economic repercussions with many of them fearing post-Assad chaos and that the end of the regime would embolden those agitating for change in other Arab countries. Saudi Arabia-with strong relationships within the Lebanese political system and close ties to neighbouring Jordan-remains concerned. 

152. Turkey’s initial approach was to push the regime to reform, fearing the potential for a refugee crisis on its border, but a lack of any serious effort by Assad to calm the situation has led them to reassess this approach. Iran remains Syria’s staunchest ally in the region and has continued to provide support for the Assad regime (see above). Israel remains wary, fearful of increasing Iranian influence in Damascus and the potential for an unpredictable response from Hizballah.

153. Within Lebanon existing sectarian tensions and anxieties are concerned: the fall of Assad could particularly impact on Hizballah funding and pro-Syrian Christian groupings. In the Palestinian territories, some see tensions between Hamas and Assad as having led the former to conclude a reconciliation agreement with Fatah and to seek alternative patronage and hospitality. The longer-term could see rejectionist groups such as Hizballah and Hamas weakened though other dynamics may come in to play and it is too early to predict what the Syria regime’s longer-term policies towards Israel and the Middle East Peace Process may be.    

The Gulf Initiative

154. In summer 2010 the Foreign Secretary launched the Gulf Initiative to reinvigorate our engagement with the GCC states, aiming to re-establish ourselves as key strategic partners to the region. This involves engagement across HMG. Almost a year since its launch, the Gulf Initiative is delivering clear results for the UK. We are now better placed politically and commercially than we have been for some time, evidenced most recently by Gulf support on Libya and demonstrable progress across the range of our security, defence and commercial interests. Increased UK engagement has been noticed and welcomed by our key contacts in the region at the highest levels.

155. The game-changing events of the Arab Spring have been the key strategic development since the launch of the Initiative.  We have therefore adjusted the HMG approach to reflect lessons so far, with emphasis on supporting long-term political and economic reform across Gulf states, in line with our Arab Partnership Initiative.  This strategy is ambitious, and will require continued engagement from Ministers across government. We need to achieve success consistent with our values and in line with our national interests, including UK prosperity and our support for international peace and security.

156. None of the GCC countries suffer from the same economic and social pressures that exist in North Africa and the Near East, notably due to oil wealth.  Pressure to reform political systems has nonetheless increased in all states, except arguably Kuwait and Qatar where reform already exists or is underway.  There were disturbances in Oman, but these were alleviated following an announcement of economic assistance from neighbouring states and a series of reforms announced by the Sultan. Progress on these will be essential in coming months.

157. Bahrain is the Gulf country where the impact of the Arab Spring has been clearest.  Between February and April 2011 there were serious disturbances and violent clashes between the security forces and opposition activists.  There were similarities with unrest elsewhere in the Arab world: the opposition were calling for a greater say, more freedoms and occupied a central square in the capital. However, the underlying reason for the unrest was sectarian.  The ruling elite, including the royal Al-Khalifa family are all Sunni Muslims.  The majority of the population are Shia, many of whom feel marginalised and oppressed. The sectarian angle led some in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, to accuse Iran of stirring up trouble. Whilst the Iranians would not have been sorry to see unrest in the Gulf States, there was no evidence of direct involvement. The Arab Spring was a catalyst for citizens, notably Bahraini Shia, to rise up and demand more political, economic and social rights. 

158. Unrest was forcefully put down by the security forces. The subsequent sentencing of opposition figures, the reports of deaths in custody, the allegations of torture, the denial of medical treatment and the censorship of the media are all extremely troubling. We have delivered firm messages to the Bahraini Government that the civil rights of peaceful opposition figures, the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly must be respected.  We also expect Bahrain to meet all its international obligations, by ensuring its citizens can exercise the universal human rights and freedoms to which they are entitled. We were pleased to see the release on bail of all the medical personnel arrested.

159. Following such firm messages from ourselves and other friends of Bahrain, both sides entered into a ‘National Dialogue’ and the King agreed to allow an International Commission to investigate possible human rights abuses during the unrest.  Since then, and since the lifting of a state of emergency at the beginning of June the situation in Bahrain has been calmer.  The International Commission is due to report in October, and local elections to take place in September.  The outcome of these events, and the government’s reaction to them (especially the Commission) will determine whether or not Bahrain is going in the right direction. In the interim, we will continue to press for urgent and concrete political reform, building on the outcome of the National Dialogue.


160. The events unfolding in Libya will be of fundamental importance for the future of the Arab Spring. Had the international community not acted in February and March this year, Qadhafi would have had a free hand to implement his threat to hunt down his own people like rats, and the message for others in the region would have been very clear.

161. Faced with this situation, the Government believed it was essential to act to support and protect ordinary Libyans. Firstly, because for Britain to stand by as Qadhafi slaughtered his people would contradict our own values. And secondly, because we believed, in the context of the Arab Spring, that supporting those values for others would strengthen longer-term regional stability and our own security.


162. As the Prime Minister has said, we believe our action was necessary, legal and just. The Libyan opposition and the Arab League both called for the protection of the civilian population. The Arab League’s support was critical in securing UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. NATO’s action had a clear legal mandate.

163. Today, the Libyan people have the prospect of freedom and democracy, for which they have fought so bravely throughout the Arab Spring. Transition in Libya will not be a quick or smooth process, although the early signs are much more encouraging than many anticipated. We have stressed from the beginning that decisions on how to achieve stabilisation will be taken by Libyans themselves. The task of the international community now is to provide co-ordinated support to them as they build that future.

164. During the Arab Spring, some warned, as Qadhafi himself did, that the Libyan people could not be trusted with freedom, that without Qadhafi there would be chaos. What is emerging now, despite years of repression, and the trauma of recent months, is impressive and encouraging. In a far-reaching road map and constitutional declaration, the new authorities have set out a clear vision and a process for a new democratic Libya. This is not being imposed from above; it is being shaped by the Libyan people.

165. The UK, having convened the London Conference on Libya in March and co-chaired the Paris Conference this month, will remain at the forefront of international efforts to ensure that Libya becomes a model for the aspirations of the Arab Spring.



166. At the beginning of 2011, Tunis was one of the smallest sovereign posts in the MENA region, with approximately 65 staff in total. Cairo was one of the largest posts in the region, accommodating staff from a number of Whitehall departments and serving as a regional hub. The FCO and other departments employed approximately 150 in Cairo and approximately 20 at the Consulate-General in Alexandria. These numbers include UK-based civil servants and staff engaged locally. For operational and security reasons we cannot provide a more detailed breakdown.

167. Our consular operation in Egypt consisted of a small team of staff based in the Embassy in Cairo, the Consulate-General in Alexandria and Honorary Consulates in Sharm el Sheikh, Luxor, Suez and Hurghada.  In Tunisia consular work was handled from the Embassy in Tunis.

168. The resident British community in Tunisia was estimated to be around 1,000 including dependants. These were located mainly in and around Tunis with small communities in Hammamet, Sousse and Sfax. Approximately 5,000 British vistors were also in the country when the revolution took place, mainly in the tourist resorts on the Mediterranean coast.

169. The resident British community in Egypt was estimated to be around 15,000 including dependants. These were concentrated mainly in and around Cairo with other residents located in Hurghada, Luxor and South Sinai.  Approximately 1,450,000 British nationals visit Egypt each year. Prior to the Arab Spring, we estimated there were up to 120,000 British Nationals visiting Egypt each month, with around 20–25,000 in country at any one time, with the majority located in the resorts on the Red Sea coast (particularly Sharm el-Sheikh).

170. In both countries we had extensive contingency plans for handling unexpected crises, including those relating to public disorder. In response to the developing political situation, the FCO’s consular response in each country comprised the following main elements:


· Use of travel advice to inform residents and visitors of risks

· Increased liaison with ABTA

· Activation of Crisis Team in London (Egypt)

During crisis:

· Activation of Crisis Team in London (Tunisia)

· Deployment of Rapid Deployment Teams and Regional Resilience (UK-Based and Locally Engaged consular officers from neighbouring countries)

· Assisted departure operation

Consular response in Tunisia

Travel Advice

171. The timeline in Annex A sets out the escalation in the travel advice for Tunisia. On 13 January, the FCO moved to advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia; the UK was the first country to change our travel advice but was quickly followed by others. The advice was strengthened the following day. On 15 January the FCO advised British nationals to leave. This advice was relaxed on 4 February.

Assisted Departure

172. The majority of British nationals in Tunisia were visitors, many of whom had travelled with tour companies. On 13 January Crisis Group briefed ABTA and tour operators on the current situation and the change in travel advice to avoid all but essential travel. In line with the travel advice, tour operators cancelled flights and holidays into the country with effect from 14 January. They subsequently arranged additional flights to repatriate customers. Crisis Group worked closely with ABTA and tour operators to inform them of developments and changes in the travel advice, to help with arrangements for additional flights and to provide consular assistance to British nationals in country. As a result more than 3,000 British nationals were able to leave within 48 hours and this prompt action by tour operators played a key role in reducing the number of British nationals in country. The FCO continued to advise independent travellers to leave by commercial means but it was not necessary to supplement the available commercial capacity through additional charter arrangements.

173. Nine additional consular staff were deployed to Tunisia to support the Embassy, including a Rapid Deployment Team, staff from the region and from the MOD. We also deployed additional security and IT specialists. The first staff deployed from Algiers arrived in Tunis on 14 January, with reinforcements from Rabat arriving on 15 January following the re-opening of Tunisian airspace.

Consular response in Egypt

Travel Advice

174. The timeline in Annex B sets out the escalation in the travel advice for Egypt. On 28 January, the FCO moved to advise against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. The following day we advised British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez to leave by commercial means. On 15 February, the FCO lifted the advice against all but essential travel to Luxor, and removed the advice that British nationals should leave Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. The advice against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria and Suez was lifted on 21 February.

175. Throughout the Egypt crisis, the FCO kept under very close review the issue of whether or not to advise against travel to the resorts of Sinai and the Red Sea. Almost all EU countries advised against all travel to the whole of Egypt, with a few, such as Sweden, France and Germany, advising against all but essential travel to the whole country. Similarly the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand advised against all travel to the whole of Egypt. However, the FCO assessed that while travellers should exercise caution throughout Egypt, the risk to British nationals in the tourist resorts was significantly lower than that in the major cities. This assessment was reviewed on a daily basis in close consultation with staff throughout the Egypt network and additional consular staff were deployed to Sharm el Sheikh to support the Honorary Consul. This approach of differentiating between different parts of the country to reflect the reality on the ground was commended by ABTA who stressed in their public statements that the Red Sea resorts were a very considerable distance from the affected areas and that these resorts had remained calm. It has also reaped wider benefits, with the Egyptian Government and UK tour operators each welcoming on several occasions since the crisis our approach of limiting advice against travel to the affected areas and positive feedback from British nationals who were able to go ahead with their holidays.

Assisted Departure

176. The FCO chartered two planes to facilitate the departure of British nationals from Cairo. These departed on 3 and 5 February. Passengers were charged £300 for an adult fare and a total of 200 British nationals and dependants left Egypt on these charters.

177. In total 62 additional staff were deployed to Egypt to support the consular response. This included four Rapid Deployment Teams (including staff from the Red Cross), staff from the region, an Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team from the MOD and staff from UKBA.

Wider crisis staffing

178. The Tunisia Crisis Team was activated on 12 January. Events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria, accompanied by major earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, meant that the FCO remained on a crisis footing until April.

179. Since January, over 570 members of staff based in London and Milton Keynes have been deployed to bolster the core staff available to Consular Directorate and MENAD to deal with the crises. For example, the Libya Political Crisis Unit had to staff up to 370 slots per week to allow us to operate on a 24/7 basis on a 3-shift pattern; and the Consular Crisis Management Department had to staff up to 720 slots per week, varying between a 2- and 3-shift pattern. Consular Crisis Management Department deployed 13 Rapid Deployment Teams overseas, totalling 75 staff, in support of the consular response to the crises of the Arab Spring. Over 50 staff deployed to Tripoli and Valletta from Rapid Deployment Teams and within the region to work alongside our Embassy teams. During February to April Crisis Management Department also dealt with major earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan and the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire.

180. These additional staff were drawn from existing crisis management structures (such as the Emergency Response Team and the Rapid Deployment Team) as well as ad-hoc volunteers. Directors across the FCO were instructed by the PUS to identify areas of work that were less immediate priorities and to release staff-wherever possible with relevant experience-to work on the crises. In order to counter the effect of a smaller workforce, Directorates were asked to reconsider their priorities, downgrading policy and representation work not related to our top prosperity and security goals, and were able to authorise overtime if necessary.

181. Other Whitehall departments have also had to adjust resources in response to the Arab Spring. MOD has put in place a complete Operations team for Libya, as well as providing additional staffing for crisis efforts in Egypt and Tunisia. In light of its commitment to the £110m Arab Partnership programme, DFID has expanded its MENA regional team, with additional professional advisory capacity on economics and private sector development; new advisor posts on social development, humanitarian issues, governance and programme evaluation; and additional generalist staff.  DFID will also second a staff member to the Islamic Development Bank.  DFID does not plan to open new country offices in the region, but is funding additional programme management slots in Cairo and Tunis, and will work with FCO to monitor the need for further reinforcement in this area. 

Business continuity during the crisis period

Security situation

182. There was widespread unrest in Tunisia in the period immediately before the departure of Ben Ali. The situation deteriorated following his departure until the establishment of a stable interim government. In Egypt there was a sharp deterioration in the security situation before the departure of President Mubarak. Movement within and between cities during the unrest was difficult, with increasingly restrictive curfew hours and use of military checkpoints and militia roadblocks to try to impose order in the streets. Embassy hours had to be cut short, often with no prior notice given to members of the public, to ensure staff were able to reach home before curfew fell or travel became unsafe.

183. Following the looting of homes in expatriate areas where UK-based staff were resident in Tunis and Cairo, staff working in both countries were moved to the residence or a hotel close to their place of work. This increased their security and allowed us to extend working hours beyond what would otherwise have been possible.

184. We continued to operate out of Embassy buildings in Cairo and Tunis throughout the crisis period. Additional host nation security support was requested and provided in both countries. Given the proximity of the Cairo Embassy to Tahrir Square, plans were in place for a complete evacuation in case the Embassy was over-run.  The Consulate-General building in Alexandria was closed for three days because of a particularly difficult security situation. Many of the police stations in Alexandria had been ransacked, weapons had been stolen and there were no police on the streets. A small number of staff continued to deliver consular assistance for British nationals from an alternative location.

Evacuation of dependants and non-essential staff

185. In January and early February, we evacuated approximately 10 dependants and members of staff from Tunis and approximately 70 dependants and 20 staff members from Cairo.  The decision to evacuate was taken by the Permanent Under-Secretary in consultation with the Departments and Posts concerned.  Decisions to evacuate are taken in line with our Travel Advice. In both Tunisia and Egypt British nationals without a pressing need to remain had been advised to leave by commercial means. Some British Council staff were also evacuated.

186. In Cairo, both the visa and the commercial sections of the Embassy had been closed by the beginning of February. This, together with the high number of specialist consular and crisis staff deployed on a temporary basis, meant that there were sufficient staff to carry out the core functions of the Embassy despite the evacuation. Lower staffing levels in Tunis meant that all UK-based staff, who were able to work, were needed to maintain the Embassy’s crisis functions.

187. The FCO makes some financial provision for evacuated officers and their dependants whilst they are in the UK, to help cover any additional costs they may incur e.g. accommodation costs.  The evacuation of both posts lasted around a month and all those evacuated subsequently returned to Post. Political, UKTI staff and Arabic language students evacuated from Egypt were re-deployed in the crisis centre in London, where their local expertise continued to inform policy.


188. In Egypt, mobile phone and internet networks were blocked by the authorities on 27 January as part of efforts to limit the size of demonstrations and were not fully restored until 29 January. This meant that contact with staff working outside the office, political contacts and key British community figures such as wardens was extremely limited. Our ability to communicate with British nationals was also heavily restricted. Communications between London and Egypt remained functional. In addition to landline telephones, the Embassy had access to satellite phones and radios when mobile networks failed.

Loss of locally-engaged staff

189. Locally-engaged staff were particularly badly affected by movement restrictions, with many unable to travel to work and others obliged to leave early to avoid curfew times or demonstrations. For example, on 14 January approximately 40% of locally-engaged staff managed to reach work in Tunis. Where possible, staff worked from home, but restrictions on the mobile phone network and internet access made this particularly hard in Egypt. Difficulty in communicating with many of our locally-engaged staff meant the loss of valuable expertise for both the political and consular operations. The loss of manpower also presented problems for rostering and adequately resting staff.

Lack of essential supplies

190. In Tunis, the looting and destruction of supermarkets and the closure of cafes and restaurants near the embassy meant that securing adequate food and water supplies was key to our continued operation. We obtained additional contingency supplies on 14 January and provided food for all staff who made it to work. We also stored fuel in Tunis following rumours of a proposed 3-day strike at petrol stations. Availability of essential supplies was less of a problem in Cairo, where large parts of the city were functioning normally.

Lessons learned

191. On 23 February, in the light of subsequent experience of evacuating British nationals from Libya, the Foreign Secretary commissioned an internal FCO Review of Consular Evacuation Procedures. The Review was deposited in the Library of the House on 4 July (ref no. DEP2011–1114). This Review gives a detailed account of the FCO’s systems for crisis preparedness and response, and contains a number of recommendations for improving these, in particular:

· extending the range of suppliers who we can call on to provide charter flights to support any assisted departure or evacuation;

· increasing staffing in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Crisis Management Department;

· enhancing crisis training and exercising across the FCO network;

· making ever greater use of both traditional and digital channels to communicate with British Nationals in a crisis, and

· developing a better crisis management command and control structure within the FCO.

192. In response to the Review, the Crisis Management Department of the FCO’s Consular Directorate established a Crisis Project team. The Foreign Secretary has instructed that the Review’s recommendations should be implemented by the end of 2011. Many of them have already been implemented.

12 September 2011


Before the Arab Spring

193. Following the Presidential elections in 2009 there was a worrying deterioration in the human rights situation. A number of significant cases came to the attention of the EU involving journalists and human rights defenders and the incidents appeared to be increasing during 2010. One development which was of particular concern was the introduction by the government of an addition to the Penal Code which made it illegal for Tunisian nationals to lobby international bodies to act in ways that might harm the country’s economic interests, widely seen as a way of stopping activists discussing cases with the EU and UN. EU missions in Tunis co-ordinated lobbying on this issue, which was also raised on a bilateral basis by FCO Minister Alistair Burt. The Tunisian response was that the legislation was being misinterpreted and was needed to protect against those who wished to damage the Tunisian economy.

194. In March 2010, Tunisia submitted a proposal for "Advanced Status" to the EU. The concept of "Advanced Status" (Statut Avancé, sometimes translated as "enhanced relations") is ambiguous, but the term is generally used to refer to a relationship with the EU which is of a higher level to that set out in an existing Action Plan. The term was first used in relation to Morocco, which agreed an "Advanced Status roadmap" during the French Presidency of the EU in 2008. The Tunisian proposal was based on the Moroccan text.

195. Given the difficulties we faced in engaging with Tunisia on political issues, we judged that it was important to take this opportunity to tie Tunisia into concrete commitments on political and economic reform, as well as access, and agreed that the Commission should begin discussions on that basis. However, EU Member States were divided on the degree to which they wished to press Tunisia. With a small number of like-minded EU states, we argued for specific and measurable commitments in the text, to which we could hold Tunisia. The proposed EU text as it stood at the end of the year was strong on governance and human rights commitments and we had managed to secure wording in the proposed Action Plan highlighting the need for diplomatic access. It is unclear how the Tunisian authorities would have responded to these proposals, as negotiations on the text had not been completed by the time of the revolution.

The fall of Ben Ali

196. The events which led to the fall of Ben Ali began on 17 December 2010 when a 26-year old university graduate committed suicide by self immolation in protest against a municipal guard who had assaulted him and confiscated vegetables he was selling without a licence. The incident sparked nightly clashes between protestors and police in Sidi Bouzid and neighbouring towns. During the remainder of December there were a number of demonstrations, most of which were peaceful. A few became violent, with reports of casualties amongst both protestors and police.

197. By the end of the first week of January the protests had spread to other parts of the country. The level of unrest was unprecedented during Ben Ali’s 23 years in power; protests against rising unemployment in Gafsa three years before had not spread. The focus of the protests had also shifted from purely economic demands to wider political concerns including corruption, lack of government accountability and constraints on freedom of expression.

198. At this point, there was no reason to believe that the unrest would represent a serious challenge to the survival of the Ben Ali regime. The main focus of FCO activity was therefore the deterioration in the human rights situation. Both the Foreign Secretary and FCO Minister Alistair Burt made statements, the Tunisian Ambassador in London was called in to see Director MENAD and we pushed out human rights messages using social networking tools, including twitter and HMA Tunis’ blog. Given our constrained bilateral relationship with the Tunisian regime at the time, we worked with the EU, both in Brussels and on the ground in Tunis, to reinforce this message.

199. In response to growing protests, Ben Ali had announced a package of measures to tackle unemployment on 10 January, which had little impact. As demonstrations escalated the regime appeared to understand the need for political concessions and Ben Ali gave an address to the country on 13 January promising to tackle key grievances. He guaranteed freedom of expression, complete removal of all internet censorship, full rights to peaceful protest, no use of live ammunition on the streets, independent investigations into violations during the protests and into corruption, and a rapid transition to full democracy in advance of the 2014 presidential elections. He also undertook not to run for another presidential term. There were initial signs that some of these commitments had been implemented, for example, more internet sites could be accessed in Tunisia. However, clashes between police and protestors continued and Ben Ali departed Tunisia in the afternoon of 14 January.

200. Following some initial uncertainty, the Parliamentary Speaker Mbazza took over as interim President on 15 January, in line with the Constitution, and asked Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi to form a government of national unity. The government included leaders of opposition parties, members of civil society and union representatives. However, the reaction in Tunisia was mixed, with public opinion divided between those who saw the interim government as good enough to take the country through to elections and those who opposed the participation of any members of the previous government.

201. The interim government moved quickly to demonstrate that it was different from the previous regime. An amnesty for all political prisoners and legalisation of banned political parties were among its first decisions. It set up independent commissions to investigate corruption and human rights abuses under the previous regime and to oversee political reform. It also undertook to sign a number of human rights protocols and to pursue the assets of Ben Ali, his wife and members of their extended family (the EU agreed an asset freeze on 4 February). Although the violence on the streets was significantly reduced, protests continued and calm was not restored until all of the remaining members of the Ben Ali regime had been removed from the national unity government. Mohamed Ghannouchi resigned as Prime Minister on 27 February and was replaced by Beji Caid Sebsi.

202. The UK established contact at a senior political level shortly after the national unity government had been established. The Foreign Secretary spoke to both the Tunisian President and Foreign Minister and was the first foreign minister to visit Tunisia after the revolution. There was regular official and Ministerial contact with EU partners and Director MENAD hosted a QUINT meeting in the FCO where Tunisia was discussed. There were two main areas of activity: firstly, to encourage the new Government to fulfil their commitment to an orderly move towards free and fair elections and to involve a broad cross-section of Tunisian society in the transition process; and secondly, to ensure that there was a substantial package of assistance available to support Tunisia in their preparations for elections and build political capacity and expertise. We drew a clear distinction between our support for these principles and support for any particular political group. We made clear throughout the process that the composition of the interim administration and any future government was a matter for the Tunisian people to decide.




Key Events in country


UK/EU Action


Travel Advice





17 December

- Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire.

18 December

- Rioting in Sidi Bouzid (central Tunisia).

18-21 December

- Nightly clashes between protesters and police in Sidi Bouzid, protests in nearby towns.

24 December

- 18-year old protester killed and several others injured when National Guard open fire near Sidi Bouzid.


22 December

- Full report from BE Tunis on unrest in Sidi Bouzid.

- Regular updates follow on situation.


The FCO Travel Advice for Tunisia was updated 22 times between 05 January and 04 February, when the advice against all but essential travel was relaxed. The curfew in the Greater Tunis area continued until 15 February was re-imposed on 7 May and lifted again on 18 May. The State of Emergency continues. The more significant updates are noted below.





3 January

- Protesters set fire to ruling party’s offices in Tala (Kasserine province).

4 January

- Mohamed Bouazizi dies of his injuries.

5 January

- More than 5000 people attend burial of Mohamed Bouazizi. Heavy police presence.

- Protesters reportedly set fire to ruling party’s (RCD) offices & police station in Tala.

- Spate of attempted self immolations across the country.

6 January

- 95% of Tunisia’s lawyers go on strike.

8 January

- Army troops deployed around government buildings in Kasserine.

10 January

- Ben Ali gives televised address, promising 300,000 new jobs in 2011 12 and national forum to discuss employment problems.

11 January

- More than 50 protesters shot dead by security forces in Kasserine between 9–11 January.

12 January

- PM sacks Interior Minister and Head of Army.

- Widespread strikes.

13 January

- Ben Ali makes speech promising reforms.

- 8 protestors shot dead in Tunis.

14 January

- Ben Ali departs for Saudi Arabia.

- PM Ghannouchi takes over briefly as acting President.

- Parliament dissolved and State of Emergency declared.

- Airspace closed.

- Parliamentary Speaker takes over as interim President. PM remains in control of the government.

15 January

- Elections announced for 60 days time.

- Airports re-open.

- Prison riots and break outs.

- BG residential compound in Guebiba approached by escaped prisoners intent on looting-45–50 BNs inside.

17 January

- Interim national unity government of 23 Ministers announced.

- Significant conflict between military and armed groups loyal to Ben Ali in La Goulette.

18 January

- Security situation improves but demonstrations continue

- UGTT union members resign from government on union instructions-Includes 2 Ministers and 1 Secretary of State

20 January

- All government ministers resign from RCD party.

- Political prisoners released.

- Reports of 33 Ben Ali relatives arrested.

- Interim President Mbazaa speech commits to reforms and law and order.

- First Cabinet meeting takes place.

- Start of legislative process to legalise all political parties.

21 January

- Country enters 3 days of national mourning for victims of violence.

- Around 500 people ‘sit-in’ outside the Ministry of Interior, demanding government resigns

22 January

- PM Ghannouchi commits to retiring after transition.

26 January

- Arrest warrant issued for Ben Ali and his wife.

27 January

- Government reshuffled, all regime ministers except PM sacked.

30 January

- Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi returns to Tunisia from UK.

31 January

- EU freezes assets of Ben Ali and his wife.


7 January

- First formal note sent to Ministers on situation in Tunisia.

10 January

- FS comments on situation in Tunisia on twitter.

- Alistair Burt issues statement.

11 January

- Submission to Ministers on next steps.

- FS issues statement condemning violence and calling for a peaceful resolution.

12 January

- Review of possible scenarios in Tunisia.

13 January

- HMA Tunis blogs condemning violence and updates on consular activity.

- Update sent to Ministers & PM.

- HMA Tunis and EU Ambassadors meet Tunisian FM Morjane to express concerns at escalating violence.

- Director MENAD meets Tunisian Ambassador to express concern over recent violence and loss of life. Flags consular concerns and possible change of TA.

14 January

- FS statement condemning violence.

- Tunis visa section closed.

- First member of staff from Algiers arrives in Tunis.

- London begins twice daily phone/teleconferences with Tunis.

- Update sent to Ministers & PM.

- Work begun on implications for other countries in the region.

15 January

- FS issues statement urging restraint from all sides and reiterating travel advice.

- First member of staff from Rabat arrives in Tunis.

- Work begun on options for evacuation if required.

- Dependents of FCO staff, British Council and non-essential staff leave Tunisia.

- Alistair Burt - Tunisian Ambassador phone call re. attack on BG compound.

- Informal discussions about EU assistance begin in Brussels.

16 January

- FS - French FM phone call.

17 January

- RDT arrives in Tunis.

- Baroness Ashton statement.

18 January

- Director MENAD - Tunisian Ambassador phone call re BE security.

20 January

- Regional consular resilience departs Tunis.

24 January

- FS - Tunisian President Mbazaa phone call.

25 January

- FS - Tunisian FM Morjane phone call.

- EU HoMs meet Tunisian FM.

26 January

- HMG formally revokes Ben Ali’s entry clearance to UK.

31 January

- FS – French FM meeting.


5 January

- Reports of clashes between police and protesters since 18 December.

6 January

- Demonstrations across the country.

11 January

- Country-wide curfew from 20:00 to 05:30 on 13 January.

13 January

- Advice against all but essential travel to Tunisia. Country-wide curfew lifted but curfew imposed in Greater Tunis.

14 January

- British nationals advised to consider their need to remain in Tunisia. Reports of looting in some residential areas. State of Emergency declared-illegal for more than 3 people to congregate in a public place. Significant looting in Tunis overnight.

15 January

- Advice to leave Tunisia for those without a pressing reason to remain.

16 January

- Possibility of curfews being imposed in other parts of the country.

17 January

- Clashes between military and those loyal to ex-President. Gunfire in residential areas of Tunis.

20 January

- Situation calmer but demonstrations expected to continue.

21 January

- Three day period of national mourning 21–23 January.





4 February

- EU freezes assets of further 46 allies and relatives of Ben Ali.

6 February

- Police shoot dead 2 protestors in Kef.

- RCD meetings and activity banned.

7 February

- Senate widens Presidential powers.

10 February

- Thousands of migrants flee Tunisia for Italian island of Lampedusa.

20 February

- Tunisia seeks extradition of Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia.

25 February

- Large demonstration in Tunis calling for resignation of PM.

27 February

- Tunisian PM Ghannouchi resigns-replaced by Beji Caid Essebsi.


1 February

- Director MENAD – QUINT meeting.

7 February

- HMT Issued Financial Sanctions Notice in support of EU Council Regulation concerning restrictive measures against 48 Tunisian nationals.

8 February

- FS visit to Tunis.

- NSC MENA discussion.

22 February

- PM speech in Kuwait.

23 February

- Transition Strategy drawn up for Ministers.

25 February

- NSC MENA discussion.

28 February

- NSC MENA discussion.


4 February

- No longer advise against all but essential travel to Tunisia.





3 March

- President announces elections to be held on 24 July.

9 March

- Court dissolves RCD party.


1 March

- NSC MENA discussion.

2 March

- DFID SofS visit to Libya/Tunisia border.

4 March

- NSC MENA discussion.

7 March

- Alistair Burt speaks to Tunisian Ambassador.

11 March

- Extraordinary European Council.

14 March

- G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Paris.

17 March

- NSC MENA discussion.

31 March

- NSC MENA discussion.



Policy before the Arab Spring

Internal context

203. Political tensions in Egypt had been growing for some time, as dissatisfaction with the Mubarak regime increased. By early 2010, it was clear that the absence of a strong secular opposition, limited political space and repression of dissent carried short and long term risks. A number of key developments brought this into focus:

· The return of Mohamed El Baradei to Egypt in February 2010, with his call for greater democracy and respect for human rights

· The illness of President Mubarak during March 2010, which increased the focus on a possible successor, with intense debate about the possible succession of Gamal Mubarak

· The death of Khaled Said in the hands of the Egyptian police on 6 June 2010 and subsequent public outrage against such abuses (the UK led the EU response in drafting and issuing a local EU statement expressing concern over the circumstances of Khaled Said’s death and over the outcome of the second autopsy).

· Parliamentary elections in November 2010, which resulted in a significantly less representative Parliament, which in turn would have had important ramifications for the Presidential elections expected in November 2011.

204. On the economic front, Egypt’s growth figures were impressive. But Egypt’s growth was capital intensive and did not create the jobs needed to accommodate the rapidly growing workforce. The increasing size of its subsidy bill in relation to GDP, inefficient production systems, the absence of instruments for long term investment and gap in skill sets were also indicative of the need for deeper economic reform to fulfill the aspirations of a growing population. A build up of social tensions in Spring 2008 had led to a general strike on 6 April that year, as a result of low wages and rising food costs. The momentum for the strike led to the creation of the "6 April" Facebook group, who also played a significant role in the 2011 Revolution.

205. These indications of internal tension led to a growing FCO focus on Egyptian politics. We believed that improvements in governance, human rights, rule of law and economic reform were needed to ensure economic stability in the longer term. It was important that any successor to Mubarak must take over with legitimacy, as this would give him the mandate to carry out needed democratic and economic reforms. Our scope for an effective partnership with Egypt, in areas such as education, skills, investment and commercial development would greatly increase if there was demonstrable progress on reform. We took action to:

· Widen our range of contacts and deepen our relationships in a way that would allow an improved understanding of the challenges facing Egypt.

· Increase dialogue on succession issues. The Foreign Secretary visited Egypt on 4–5 November 2010. During his meeting with Gamal Mubarak, he stressed the importance of a strong secular opposition in ensuring stability, sustainable growth and a modern, outward looking economy.

· Broaden our efforts to deliver what the Egyptians wanted in a number of fields, including in education and skills for employability, economic reform and service delivery, civil service reform, and trade and investment. These were important drivers of unrest and were also important in developing a greater level of trust, which was needed if Egypt was to accept our support in addressing more politically sensitive human rights issues.

2010 Parliamentary Elections

206. The November 2010 elections were an obvious trigger point for potential unrest and demonstrations did take place, although the efforts of the authorities to limit dissent meant that these were not on the same scale as January 2011. Ahead of the elections, we called on the Egyptian government to amend legislation to ensure full compatibility with Egypt’s international obligations in this regard and to extend an invitation to international observers. We expressed our hope that the elections would be transparent and fair.

207. The EU supported a coalition of Egyptian civil society organisations to monitor the parliamentary elections. These NGOs also worked to raise Egyptian voter awareness about their political rights, and to improve media coverage of electoral campaigns along internationally recognised professional standards. The UK supported a number of smaller projects with Egyptian civil society to assist their capacity building for the electoral process.

208. The ruling National Democratic Party won Egypt’s Parliamentary elections of 28 November and 5 December by a landslide, taking over 90% of the seats. Organised opposition groupings won 16 seats between them. The elections were marred by reports of widespread fraud which called into question the legitimacy of the results.

209. The UK worked closely with Baroness Ashton ’s Office to release a prompt statement after the second round, expressing concern at the reports of irregularities, restricted access for independent observers and candidate representatives into polling stations, media restrictions and arrests of opposition activists. FCO Minister Alistair Burt telephoned the Egyptian Ambassador to voice his concerns about the credibility of the results. He highlighted that Egypt’s long term interests, including as a force for real influence in the region, would be best served by progress towards democratisation and good governance. The issue was also raised with the Egyptian authorities by a number of UK senior officials, including during the UK-Egypt Strategic Dialogue in January 2011. We also stressed to the Egyptian authorities the importance of securing the Presidential mandate through transparent, free and fair elections, and encouraged Egypt to accept international monitors to visit during election periods.

EU-Egypt Relations

210. The EU-Egypt Association Agreement came into force in June 2004 and an Action Plan for political dialogue and sectoral cooperation, with a lifespan of 3–5 years, has been in place since March 2007. The Action Plan covers EU-Egypt co-operation in a number of fields, including trade liberalisation, promotion of human rights, rule of law and democratisation.

211. Egypt requested "Advanced Status" in May 2008 and this was endorsed by the EU at the April 2009 Association Council. However, with our support, the EU had made clear that completion of the existing Action Plan remained the basis for enhancing relations (there had been little progress against the political elements of the Action Plan). At the EU-Egypt Association Committee on 14 December 2010, Egypt declared that discussion of enhancement would end if the EU insisted on full compliance.

Human Rights and Sectarian Tensions

212. Egypt imposed a State of Emergency in 1981 and extended a more limited version of it in May 2010 for a further two years. The State of Emergency was a key element in many of the human rights problems in Egypt, including detention without trial, torture and mistreatment, trial of civilians in military courts and restrictions on freedom of expression. It remains key to improving the human rights situation. During 2010, we continued to call on the Egyptian Government to honour its commitment to end the State of Emergency and ensure that any new anti-terrorism legislation complied with international human rights law. We also offered technical support to help Egypt develop a modern counter-terrorism law which addressed their security needs while respecting core human rights principles. This would have removed the justification for maintaining the State of Emergency.

213. Egypt underwent a Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in February 2010. This was a key opportunity to discuss the need for human rights reform with Egypt. We were encouraged by Egypt’s acceptance of 119 out of the 165 recommendations made during its Universal Periodic Review. But it is unclear how many of these would have been implemented under the Mubarak regime.

214. Tensions between Muslim and Christian groups also surfaced a number of times during 2010, most notably during the attack on Naga Hammadi on 7 January. Following the bombing of a church in Alexandria on 1 January 2011, FCO Minister Alistair Burt issued a statement stressing the importance of promoting tolerance in the face of the attack. We assessed that tensions in Egyptian society had reached a critical point in the aftermath of the attack, heightened by a growing resentment towards the regime.

215. Our response sought to reconcile communities and avoid feeding into the rhetoric of extremists who claimed that the UK was inherently anti-Muslim. We believed that we should be prepared to have a frank dialogue with the government about the challenges of ensuring greater inclusion and tolerance for all religious groups. This included addressing the ambitions of Egyptian society for greater social, economic and political participation.

The fall of Mubarak

25 January-11 February

216. Protests in Cairo demanding the end of President Mubarak’s rule of almost 30 years began on 25 January. Thousands clashed with riot police, and a government ban was imposed on public gatherings. However, protests continued and three protesters and one policeman were killed on 26 January. Security forces arrested about 500 demonstrators in those first two days. Violence escalated outside Cairo. On 27 January the Egyptian authorities attempted to interrupt internet and mobile networks in an attempt to hamper protest organisers. The British Government called on the Egyptian authorities to lift these restrictions urgently.

217. The FCO assessed that in the face of these huge demonstrations, which were organised by a diverse range of opposition and interest groups, Mubarak did not intend to step down. While it was not for the UK to decide who governed Egypt, it was clear that stability in Egypt required a process of political change. We believed this should include an orderly transition to a more democratic system, through creation of broad-based Government, including opposition figures, which would produce real political change.  This position was made clear in our public and private messaging, and there was sustained high-level British Government engagement with the Egyptian authorities. The Ambassador and British Embassy staff in Cairo and other parts of Egypt closely monitored developments on the ground throughout the revolution period, including assessments of events and contacts with those taking part in the protests, opposition and other senior political figures.

218. On 28 January the Army was deployed on the streets for the first time in the protests, and it fired tear gas and live ammunition as thousands of protesters defied a curfew. On 29 January Mubarak made changes to his government, appointing Omar Suleiman as his first Vice-President and Ahmed Shafiq as the new Prime Minister. The Army took over security in Cairo.

219. British engagement continued to stress the need to avoid violent repression and rapidly advance political reform. The Prime Minister spoke to Mubarak by telephone on 28 January and on 30 January the Foreign Secretary spoke to Vice President Suleiman and Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit, to set out the UK’s views. The Foreign Secretary later discussed the situation with the US Secretary of State and EU High Representative Baroness Ashton. He also discussed the situation in Egypt at the Foreign Affairs Council on 31 January. The Council issued Conclusions which called on all sides to show restraint, and called for genuine democratic reform.

220. On 1 February up to a million people protested on the streets of Cairo. Mubarak responded by promising to resign at the next election and pave the way for a new leader, but protesters were angry that he had not stood down with immediate effect. There was renewed violence the next day in Tahrir Square when pro-government protesters swarmed into the area where thousands of anti-Mubarak demonstrators were keeping a vigil.

221. The Prime Minister discussed the situation with the UN Secretary-General on 1 February and held a joint press conference, in which he expressed grave concern at the continuing violence in Egypt and stated that if the regime had sponsored the violence it would be unacceptable. He stressed the need for rapid political reform. The Foreign Secretary spoke to Gamal Mubarak on 2 February to express his concern about the violence, stressing that reform plans must be accelerated. British officials lobbied EU and regional partners to press for an orderly transition to a broad-based government in Egypt, leading to free and fair elections.

222. By 4 February there had been no real change in the situation and our lobbying continued. The Prime Minister attended the European Council and ensured there was a clear European statement that the Egyptian authorities should meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people with reform and not repression, and that the transition to a broad-based government should start immediately. The Deput y Head of Mission in Cairo spoke to Omar Suleiman the same day . On 5 February the Foreign Secretary spoke again to Aboul Gheit and stressed the UK’s concerns about human rights abuses. He also spoke to the then Secretary-General of Arab League, Amr Moussa, to exchange views on the best way forward. The Prime Minister called Omar Suleiman on 7 February to urge him to take bold and credible steps to show that the transition in Egypt was irreversible, and to set out a clear roadmap with an urgent timetable, including constitutional change and elections. FCO Minister Alistair Burt met the Egyptian Ambassador on 9 February and repeated our concerns about human rights abuses, and the need for a roadmap.

223. On 11 February Vice President Suleiman announced that Mubarak had decided to give up the office of President of the Republic and instructed the SCAF to manage the affairs of the country. Several hundred thousand protesters massed in Tahrir Square to celebrate. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary both issued statements highlighting that Egypt had a precious moment of opportunity and that the UK stood ready to help in any way that we could. Both statements stressed the importance of the new government putting in place the building blocks of an open, free and democratic society ; those running Egypt had a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people. 

12 February-21 February

224. Following Mubarak’s resignation, the civilian government remained in place, but decision-making power was passed to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The SCAF made a series of statements setting out their intentions for the transition period and the principles to which they would adhere. These included a commitment to transferring power to a new democratically elected government and to upholding Egypt’s international and regional treaty obligations, including those with Israel. The British Government’s view of what was required remained the same: the Egyptian authorities needed to set out a clear timetable and roadmap of reforms, and to engage with the opposition and activists as part of that process. We continued to make these points to all our Egyptian interlocutors.

225. On 13 February the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Egyptian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. He encouraged the Egyptian Government to accommodate the views of opposition figures. He explained that he would like to see a clear timetable for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, and a genuinely inclusive dialogue about the country's future. On 15 February, the Prime Minister spoke to Field Marshal Tantawi by telephone to underline the UK’s support for the transition, and discussed the need for a clear timetable, inclusion of opposition figures in the process, and the ending of the state of emergency. On the same day FCO Minister Alistair Burt spoke to the Egyptian Ambassador. They discussed the economic situation in Egypt, and how the British government could help, including through promoting investment. Our Ambassador in Cairo also met the Egyptian Finance Minister to discuss the economic situation.

226. An increasing amount of activity was focused on ensuring that the international community was offering the right technical and financial support to support the transition. On 12 February the Prime Minister discussed Egypt with President Obama and on 13 February the Foreign Secretary spoke to the US Secretary of State to discuss how best to support Egypt. Following a request from the Egyptian Government to freeze the assets of several former Egyptian officials, the Chancellor of the Exchequer discussed possible freezing measures and economic support for the Egyptian economy with EU Finance Ministers on 13–14 February in Brussels. The Foreign Secretary spoke to Baroness Ashton on 16 February. They agreed that this was an important opportunity to use the ENP more effectively and with more conditionality to transform Europe’s neighbourhood and demonstrate the EU’s positive role. 

227. On 21 February the Prime Minister visited Egypt. He met Field Marshal Tantawi, Prime Minister Shafiq and Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. He urged the authorities to show leadership on the transition and highlighted the UK’s economic contribution through the EU. He also met democratic activists who had played a role in Tahrir Square to hear their views on the transition process.

The transition period

228. The transition process in Egypt has moved at a similar pace to that in Tunisia. However, Egypt is a more diverse society and there is significantly less consensus between political and religious groups about how the transition should progress.

229. The FCO’s overarching priority is to see Egypt continue as an effective commercial and political partner of the UK, contributing to peace and stability in the region and representing an example of successful reform. We have welcomed the Egyptian authorities’ commitment to a transition to a civilian democratic government and have urge d them to build trust with opposition groups, and involve them in a genuinely broad-based dialogue as reform plans are developed.

230. In the period following the revolution the FCO identified its priorities for work with Egypt as: promoting political participation through work with NGOs and political groups, promoting the rule of law and reducing corruption; and assistance with electoral preparations. We also looked to promote economic development, co-ordinating closely with the IFIs as they offer assistance to address the short-term risks to the Egyptian economy and the longer-term structural challenges, as well as promoting bilateral business links and investment, boosting vocational education the British Council and the private sector.

231. Throughout the revolution, we expressed our strong concerns to the authorities about the mistreatment of protesters, journalists and human rights defenders. We continued to monitor the human rights situation closely as the transition period moved forward. British Ministers and the staff in the Embassy in Cairo took appropriate opportunities to raise our concerns.

232. Essam Sharaf was appointed as the new Prime Minister on 7 March, following Ahmed Shafiq’s resignation four days earlier. The Prime Minister called Sharaf on 8 March to reiterate the UK’s desire to help Egypt, and urged progress on an election timetable and reorganisation of the state security organisation, which had been discredited by the people.      The Prime Minister attended the Special European Council on 11 March which met specifically to discuss Europe’s role in supporting the Arab people in North Africa and across the Middle East in realising their aspirations for a more open and democratic form of government.

233. FCO Minister Alistair Burt visited Cairo from 9–11 March. He met the Prime Minister, Foreign and Interior Ministers. He encouraged the government to set out a credible timetable for elections which would allow sufficient time for the development of effective political parties. He also met a range of Egyptian activists, members of opposition parties, senior representatives of British companies in Egypt and discussed regional issues with the Secretary General of the Arab League.

234. A constitutional committee in Egypt submitted proposed amendments to the constitution on 26 February to the SCAF. On 19 March a referendum was held to consider these proposals, which included those articles of the constitution which were the focus of the protesters’ demands. The proposals limited the presidential term to four years and created a two-term limit, significantly expanded the pool of eligible presidential candidates, restored judicial supervision of elections, paved the way for a new constitution after elections, and restricted the ability to declare and renew a state of emergency. The turnout in the referendum was 42% with 77% voting in favour of the proposed amendments. This compares to a turnout of 25% in the first round in 2010, according to official figures, or 5–15% by civil society estimates. The FCO assessed that the referendum itself was a more credible exercise than previous elections. There was public confidence in the results, which were seen as reflecting the political will of the Egyptian people, and they were not seriously challenged by observers.

235. On 25 March the Egyptian Finance Minister, Samar Radwan visited the UK. He met FCO Minister Alistair Burt and senior officials. We were able to seek a better understanding of the economic situation in Egypt, the Egyptian government’s plans for handling the challenges it presented, and the help they were seeking.

236. On 30 March the SCAF issued a Constitutional Declaration. It retained much of the old Constitution. It specified that the SCAF assumed all presidential powers, but these would be transferred to the President upon election. The Declaration added some clarity on the transitional process, but some activists and legal experts expressed concern that there should be sufficient time for all political parties to be ready to take a full part in free and fair elections. One of the UK’s key messages in the following months to the Egyptian authorities was to allow sufficient time for new political parties to develop and establish themselves ahead of parliamentary elections.

237. During April, protests in Tahrir Square grew once again. Two key demands of protestors were to preserve the demands of the revolution and demand prosecution of former members of the regime. The authorities responded with the arrest of Mubarak and his sons, plus former Ministers. In a widely welcomed move, the former ruling National Democratic Party was banned. These political moves were accompanied by the prospect of growing budget and balance of payment deficits, and Egypt’s growth forecasts and credit rating were revised down. There was also a worrying return of sectarianism, triggered by the appointment of a Coptic Christian Governor in Southern Egypt, and Islamist extremists became more vocal.

238. In response to this, the Foreign Secretary visited Egypt in April, to reinforce the UK’s support for the transition process, and in particular the promotion of a more open and democratic society, which met the aspirations of the Egyptian people. He set out our concerns about the dangers of extremism and sectarianism, sought increased commitment by the Egyptian government to tackle the domestic economic challenge with sustainable measures and underlined our shared long-term goals in a stable region. He met Field Marshal Tantawi, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. He also met representatives of Egyptian activists, including a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

239. In May, sectarian tensions escalated and there were significant incidents of violence between some Muslims and Christians. In a Parliamentary Statement on 16 May the Foreign Secretary condemned the clashes and called on both sides to find a peaceful resolution to their differences. More widely there was a sense of continuing political and security volatility in Egypt.

240. FCO Minister Alistair Burt made a further visit to Cairo on 27 and 28 July where he discussed the transition in Egypt and regional issues with the Foreign Minister and activists in Tahrir Square and religious issues with the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar.

241. FCO monitoring of events in Egypt has included the rise of Salafist activity and the risk of increased radicalisation of parts of Egyptian society. There is an additional threat from Egyptian extremist ideologues in terms of their radical ideology influencing some British Muslims. The trend of a stronger Islamist voice and presence continued through June. On 29 July the Islamist groups organised large protests across the country (over two million). This highlighted the ability of Salafists to mobilise supporters and organise their activity which was greater than had previously been anticipated. The messages of Islamist groups included support for the SCAF and stability and demands for an Islamic State and Shari’ah law. The growing Salafist voice presented challenges for the Muslim Brotherhood, Sufi groups and secularist Egyptians.

242. During the summer there was also increasing pressure from the secularist parties and activists to delay the elections and in July the SCAF announced the elections would be postponed to November. This has caused concern among Islamist political groupings who stood to gain from earlier elections due to their more advanced organisation. Political debate in August has focussed on the issue of the SCAF’s proposed Constitutional Principles. As these have been issued ahead of the parliamentary elections they could limit the role of the committee tasked with drawing up the new Constitution. Some see this as an attempt by the SCAF to limit the extent of influence of Islamic principles within the Constitution.





Key Events in country


UK/EU Action


Travel Advice





In total the Travel Advice for Egypt was updated 26 times between 26 January and 21 February and a further 3 times between 19 and 26 April. The more significant updates are noted below.





25 January

- Thousands clash with riot police in the centre of Cairo to demand the end of Mubarak ’s Presidency.

26 January

- Security forces arrest about 500 demonstrators over two days.

- Three protesters and one policeman killed as protestors defy a ban on public gatherings.

- Violence escalates outside Cairo - in the north Sinai, several hundred bedouins and police exchange gunfire. Youth killed.

- Internet and mobile networks shut down.

27 January

- Mohamed ElBaradei , returns to Egypt.

- Social network sites are interrupted in what is seen as a bid to hamper protest organisers.

28 January

- Government dismissed

- Army deployed on streets for the first time, tear gas and live ammunition fired by government troops.

- Tanks surround the British and American embassies.

- Mubarak addresses nation

- Thousands defy the curfew

29 January

- Mubarak names Omar Suleiman vice-president.


27 January

- Baroness Ashton statement.

28 January

- FS statement calling for end to violence.

- PM interview with CNN calling for reform.

29 January

- PM – President Mubarak phone call.

- PM/Sarkozy/Merkel joint statement.

- FS statement calling for Mubarak to reform.

- London begins twice daily video conferences with Cairo.

- Submission to Ministers on FS calls.

30 January

- PM – US President phone call.

- PM – King of Jordan phone call.

- FS – Egyptian Vice President phone call.

- FS – Egyptian FM phone call.

- FS – US SofS phone call.

- RDT arrives in Egypt.

31 January

- Alistair Burt updates Parliament on situation.

- Foreign Affairs Council discusses Egypt.

- Second RDT arrives in Cairo.

- MOD planning team arrives in Cairo.


26 January updates x 2

- Advice to avoid demonstrations and political gatherings & respect advice and instruction from local authorities

28 January

- Nationwide curfew imposed from 18:00 07:00

- 2 nd update: Advice against all but essential travel to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Suez. Transit through Cairo airport not affected.

29 January updates x 2

- Curfew 16:00 08:00. Advice to remain indoors where possible.

- 2nd update: Recommend that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria or Suez leave by commercial means.

30 January x 2

- Advice against all but essential travel to Cairo includes all four governorates of Cairo, Giza, Helwan and 6 October.

- 2nd update: nationwide curfew extended from 15:00–08:00 local time.





1 February

- up to a million people mass on the streets

- In a TV address Mubarak makes several concessions including vowing to quit at the next election.

2 February

- Violence in Tahrir Square when pro-govt protesters clash with anti-govt demonstrators.

- Mubarak refused to step down.

5 February

- Reports of foreigners including journalists being harassed/attacked/interrogated; unofficial checkpoints; thefts and attacks on cars.

10 February

- Mubarak announces on state TV that he is transferring power to vice president, but will not leave the country.

11 February

- Mubarak resigns as president and hands control to the military.

13 February

- SCAF dissolves Parliament and suspends the constitution stating it will hold power for 6 months or until elections.


1 February

- FS and FCO Ministers update Parliament.

- Alistair Burt – Egyptian Ambassador phone call.

- Submission to Ministers on UK action on political situation.

2 February

- PM – UNSG bilateral.

- PM – Gamal Mubarak phone call.

- DPM – US Vice President phone call.

- FS – UNSG meeting.

3 February

- Joint statement by UK, France, Germany, Spain & Italy.

- FS statement on harassment of journalists.

- Alistair Burt interviews on violence

- Baroness Ashton statement.

- BE Cairo draw down non-core staff.

4 February

- PM statement on path to transition.

- European Council Declaration on Egypt.

- Alistair Burt statement on intimidation of lawyers, journalist and human rights defenders.

- PM - Erdogan phone call.

5 February

- FS – Vice President phone call.

6 February

- FS – then Egyptian FM phone call.

- FS – Head Arab League phone call.

- FS - Andrew Marr interview.

7 February

- PM - Vice President phone call.

- PM updates Parliament on European Council.

- Submission on contact with the MB.

8 February

- NSC on ‘Change in the MENA region’.

9 February

- FS - then Egyptian FM phone call.

- Alistair Burt meeting with Egyptian Ambassador and press release.

10 February

- FS statement following Mubarak statement.

- No 10 PS for Foreign Affairs meeting with Egyptian Ambassador.

- Alistair Burt – Turkish FM phone call.

- Alistair Burt statement on Hisham Morsi .

11 February

- PM statement on resignation of Mubarak .

- FS statements.

12 February

- PM – US President phone call.

13 February

- PM to then FM phone call.

- FS - then PM phone call.

- FS – Australia FM phone call.

- PM –US SofS phone call.

13 28 February

- Egyptian Embassy submit asset freezing evidence to the FCO for former President Mubarak, his spouse and family, former Ministers, officials and nationals.

14 February

- FS statement in Parliament.

- FCO consular press release.

- Submission recommending support for EU-wide assets freeze on named individuals.

- Phone call with Turkish Ambassador.

15 February

- PM – Tantawi phone call.

- Chancellor raises assets freeze at ECOFIN.

- Alistair Burt – Egyptian Ambassador phone call.

- Phone call with Saudi DPM.

17 February

- PM meeting with EU Commission President.

- Alistair Burt – Turkish FM phone call.

21 February

- PM visit to Cairo. Met Field Marshal Tantawi , and PM Shafiq .

22 February

- PM speech in Kuwait.

25 February

- NSC MENA discussion

28 February

- UN Human Rights Council.

- NSC MENA discussion


1 February x 3

- Nationwide curfew extended to 13:00–08:00 local time. This does not extend to Red Sea resorts.

- 2nd & 3rd updates: To supplement the commercial flight capacity provided by British airlines, FCO charters aircraft scheduled to leave Cairo Thursday 3 February. Contact details and advice on cost given. 24-hour assistance by BE staff at Cairo airport Terminals 1 & 3.

2 February

- Curfew changed to 17:00–08:00 local time

3 February x 2

- Reference to boarding passes in TA.

- 2 nd update: 2 nd plane chartered by FCO scheduled to leave Cairo on 5 February.

4 February x 2

- Advice on further demonstrations & general strike called for 6 February.

5 February

- Reports of foreigners including journalists being harassed/attacked/interrogated; unofficial checkpoints; thefts and attacks on cars.

8 February

- Nationwide curfew changed to 20:00 06:00.

11 February

- Suez Canal operating normally.

- Advice re possibility of large crowds forming in major cities following resignation of Mubarak .

15 February

- No longer advise against non-essential travel to Luxor. Recommendation that British nationals without a pressing need to be in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez leave by commercial means removed.

21 February

- All advice against non-essential travel lifted.





3 March

- Ahmed Shafik steps down as PM, replaced by Essam Sharaf .

19 March

- Constitutional referendum passes with 77% of the vote.


1 March

- NSC MENA discussion

2 March

- DPM EU/North Africa speech.

4 March

- NSC MENA discussion

8 March

- PM – Egyptian PM phone call.

9 11 March

- Alistair Burt visits Cairo – meetings with PM, FM, Interior Minister.

17 March

- Parliamentary debate on MENA.

- NSC MENA discussion

21 March

- Alistair Burt statement following constitutional referendum.

24 March

- Alistair Burt statement on EU assets freezing decision.

31 March

- NSC MENA discussion





26 April

- FS updates Parliament.


19 April

- Following protests, some violent, in the city of Qena, FCO advises against all but essential travel to Qena.

26 April

- Advice against all but essential travel to Qena relaxed.





1–2 May

- FS visits Cairo. Meets Tantawi, PM Sharaf, FM El-Araby.





Association of British Travel Agents




African Development Bank




Arab Partnership Economic Facility




Arab Partnership Participation Fund




BBC World Service Trust




Development Assistance Committee of the OECD




European Bank for Reconstruction and Development




Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement




Department for International Development




European External Action Service




European Neighbourhood Policy




European Union




European Union Special Representative




Foreign & Commonwealth Office




The Group of Eight (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, US, Canada & Russia)




Gulf Cooperation Council




Gross Domestic Product




Her Majesty’s Ambassador




Her Majesty’s Government




International Bank for Reconstruction and Development




International Monetary Fund




Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Iran)




Muslim Brotherhood




Middle East and North Africa




Middle East and North Africa Directorate (FCO)




Middle East Peace Process




Ministry of Defence




Non-Governmental Organisation




Non-State Actors




National Security Council




Overseas Development Assistance




Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development




Occupied Palestinian Territories




Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe




Public Financial Management




Permanent Under-Secretary (FCO)




Grouping of UK, US, France, Germany, Italy




Constitutional Democratic Rally-former ruling party of Tunisia




Rapid Deployment Team




Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Egypt)




Small and Medium-sized Enterprises




Support for Partnership Reform and Inclusive Growth




FCO Travel Advice




UK Border Agency




UK Trade and Investment




United Nations




United Nations Secretary General




United States Agency for International Development




Westminster Foundation for Democracy


[1] For the purposes of this study, the region is defined as the Gulf States, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia. OPTS, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Yemen and Iraq .

[1] As set out by UNDP, human development issues include: political parti c i pation; media freedom; women’ s parti c i pation; minority rights; human rights; government accountability; transparency; combating corruption; rule of law; service delivery; education for employment; economic openness; equality of opportunity.

Prepared 8th December 2011