Netherlands helps pay for Egyptian election 'witnesses'

The Netherlands has promised the US Carter Centre 300,000 euros to send people to Egypt to watch over the upcoming elections in November. Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal spoke with his Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Kamel Amr in Cairo on Wednesday.

Cairo says it has no difficulty with what they insist on calling 'witnesses' rather than 'observers'. “They will be given free access to polling centres,” Minister Rosenthal said, as will the press. He says he has no problem with the terminology as he is satisfied with the conditions under which foreign election watchers will be able to operate. The Carter Centre was set up in 1982 and regularly sends observers to monitor elections all over the world.

The minister also discussed the situation of Coptic Christians in Egypt after a peaceful protest ended in bloodshed last month. The police are accused of using excessive violence when agitators disrupted the demonstration. The Christian Democrat minister had called on Cairo to protect the minority Coptic community. There is also a large Coptic community in the Netherlands. Minister Rosenthal says the Egyptian authorities were shocked by what happened and raised the topic themselves.

The peace process in the Middle East and the situation in Libya, Syria and Sudan were also discussed. The minister returns to the Netherlands today.


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