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Cameron says repression or extremism is a false choice and Arab world can build strong democracies

Tim Montgomerie

David Cameron has just delivered a speech in Kuwait setting out his attitude to the historic events in the Arab world. Posted below are some key extracts.

World-shield The changes sweeping the Arab world are about a yearning for economic and political freedom, not extremism: "This movement belongs to the frustrated Tunisian fruit seller who can’t take his product to market. And to the students in Cairo who can’t get a fair start, and the millions of Egyptians who live on $2 a day. In short, it belongs to the people who want to make something of their lives, and to have a voice.   It belongs to a new generation for whom technology – the internet and social media – is a powerful tool in the hands of citizens, not a means of repression.  It belongs to the people who’ve had enough of corruption, of having to make do with what they’re given, of having to settle for second best." 

Britain will insist on the right to peaceful protest, freedom of speech and the internet, in freedom of assembly and the rule of law: "These are not just our values, but the entitlement of people everywhere; of people in Tahrir Square as much as Trafalgar Square. So whenever and wherever violence is used against peaceful demonstrators, we must not hesitate to condemn it."

It's almost racist to say the Arab world cannot do democracy: "The evolution of political and economic progress will be different in each country. But that’s not an excuse, as some would argue, to claim that Arabs or Muslims can’t do democracy – the so-called Arab exception. For me that’s a prejudice that borders on racism. It’s offensive and wrong, and it’s simply not true. Oman established a Human Rights Commission for the first time last year in Oman. Qatar is now considered to be among the twenty least corrupt nations in the world. Above all, just look around this National Assembly elected by universal suffrage where every community is represented where men and women sit side-by-side and where Ministers are held to account."

Each country will follow a different and legitimate model: "Just as we stood with Kuwait in 1990 to defend your right to self-determination, so we stand today with the people and Governments who are on the side of justice, of the rule of law and of freedom.  It is not for me, or for governments outside the region, to pontificate about how each country meets the aspirations of its people. It is not for us to tell you how to do it, or precisely what shape your future should take. There is no single formula for success, and there are many ways to ensure greater, popular participation in Government."

Democracy is about much more than voting: "Democracy is the work of patient craftsmanship it has to be built from the grassroots up. The building blocks have to be laid like the independence of the judiciary, the rights of individuals, free media and association, and a proper place in society for the army. It can’t be done overnight. And if you want evidence of that just look at the history of Britain, a constitutional monarchy which has evolved through time, and where so many of our rights under our laws predate our right to vote by 700 years."

Islam is not the problem: "Islam is a great religion, observed peacefully and devoutly by over a billion people. I am talking about the extremist ideology of a small minority. An ideology that wants a global conflict between Muslims and the rest of the world, and in the process sets Muslims against Muslims.   It is this extremism that is the source of the global terrorist threat. Now, of course, increasing our security co-operation is a vital part of how we meet this threat. And above all it is vital that we challenge the warped thinking that fuels the extremist ideology. But as I argued in Munich earlier this month, we, in the West, must also do much better at integrating young Muslims into our society. People should have a positive identity with the country in which they are living. We in Europe have to recognise that without a society to integrate with or a proper sense of  belonging our Muslim communities risk becoming isolated and young Muslims in particular  become more prone to the poisonous narrative of separateness and victimhood that can lead to extremism."

We must redouble our efforts to accelerate the Middle East Peace Process: "We must be clear about the Middle East Peace Process. In responding to the most recent developments in the Middle East, there is a serious risk that governments will draw the wrong conclusion and pull back. I draw completely the opposite conclusion.  Far from pulling back we should push forward. We need to see an urgent return to talks so that people's legitimate aspirations for two states can be fulfilled through negotiations. Just as the Palestinian Authority needs to shoulder its responsibility to tackle violence from the West Bank Israel needs to meet its Road Map obligation to halt illegal settlement activity as the Resolution Britain supported at the UN Security Council last Friday underlines. The result should be two states, with Jerusalem as the future capital of both, and a fair settlement for refugees."

Iran's nuclear ambitions: "We have offered Iran the hand of friendship. But the response has been disappointing and gravely concerning. We will not stand by and allow Iran to cast a nuclear shadow over this region nor accept interference by Iran in the affairs of its neighbours."


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