Sydney, Feb 22 (IANS) Australia has plans to increase its aid to Egypt to support and strengthen the country’s democratic transformation, as Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd will undertake a visit to Egypt this week to thrash out details of a new assistance package.
Rudd, during his visit, will call on his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit and others in the interim government to consult about their needs.
“We have made provisions for this but we don’t know the scope of it yet because we’ve not concluded our negotiations,” The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Rudd as telling the National Press Club in Canberra Tuesday.
“My overall criteria is this: that it provides real, material and measurable assistance in what will be a critical year for Egypt’s future.”
Rudd also stated that it was in Australia’s security and economic interests to ensure that Egypt became a stable democracy.
“We cannot simply stand by and hope that others will attend to the great challenges that lie before us and in doing so automatically protect our interests as well,” he said.
The Australian foreign minister said he had consulted with his counterparts in the US, Britain and elsewhere about how to best coordinate the international response to Egypt’s transition since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak resigned as president Feb 11 after 18 days of anti-government demonstrations that left hundreds dead.
Rudd will also visit the Tunisian capital Tunis, where the popular uprisings now sweeping the Middle East first began.
“While the world looks now primarily to Egypt and to Libya, what happens in Tunis in the months ahead will also have a profound resonance across the region,” he said.