Egypt’s economic reform 'impressive' but more political steps needed: UK minister

Marwan Sultan in London, Thursday 15 Jan 2015

UK Middle East minister praises Egypt's economic reform programme after a three-day visit to Egypt

British Minister Tobias Ellwood (C) and Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mameesh (L) sailing in the new Suez Canal (Photo: The British embassy in Cairo)

The UK has described Egypt’s economic reform programme as “impressive”, pledging to help the Egyptian government to implement reforms.

The comments by UK Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood came at the conclusion of the minister's visit to Egypt on Friday, during which he met with the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.

 During the three-day visit, Ellwood led a trade mission of over 40 British companies to Egypt, with the aim of increasing bilateral trade.

"I have been impressed by the vision of economic reform set out by the Egyptian government ," Ellwood said in statement issued on Thursday by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.  

He reiterated that his country “stands ready to help implement reforms that make Egypt a more attractive place for investment as well as ensure that economic growth benefits all Egyptians.”

The British minister met with Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, attended a one-day conference on doing business with Egypt, and toured the new Suez Canal project.

The UK trade mission is the largest of its kind to visit Egypt in over a decade.

The mission shows "the active, concrete support that the UK is offering to build a more secure, prosperous, and democratic Egypt founded upon a strong, dynamic economy, which creates jobs and opportunities for all Egyptians,” the statement read.

London has repeatedly called on the Egyptian authorities to implement political reforms to secure respect for human rights and rule of law and include all Egyptians in the political process.

“I also encourage the Egyptian government to take more steps on political reform, which must go hand-in-hand with economic reform to ensure long-term stability,” the minister said.

He stressed the importance of upholding fundamental human rights guaranteed in the Egyptian constitution, such as freedom of expression.

Ellwood said he hoped Egyptian authorities would review cases such as those of the jailed Al Jazeera journalists.

Three journalists working for the Qatari network were jailed last year for terms of between seven and ten years for aiding a terrorist group and jeopardising national security.

“Egypt has an important role in the region. I welcome Egypt’s leadership as part of the coalition to defeat ISIL and the poisonous ideology of violent extremism, as well as its continued support for the Middle East Peace Process,” the statement read.

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