British MP makes new call for apology to Egypt over Suez

In this photo taken on November 5, 1956, smoke rises from oil tanks beside the Suez Canal that were hit in an air strike during the initial Anglo-French assault on Port Said, Egypt. (Wikimedia Commons)
Updated 22 November 2017

British MP makes new call for apology to Egypt over Suez

LONDON: A British MP has made a call for the UK to apologize to Egypt for the 1956 Suez Crisis as it looks to form a “new relationship” with Cairo.

Britain’s position on the global stage was forever altered by its invasion, along with France and Israel, of Egypt in an attempt to wrestle back control of the canal. It later withdrew.

Daniel Kawczynski, an MP for Shrewsbury, said that the move was an “disaster” and “illegal mistake” and issued a call for a formal apology.

“It would be very magnanimous of us as British politicians now, 60 years on, to say ‘Suez was a mistake, we made a mistake, we apologize for that … We ask the Egyptian people for their forgiveness for the mistake that we made, and we ask them to now work with us in a new relationship.’ It takes a lot of guts for a country as large and important as ours (to apologize),” he told Arab News.

Kawczynski said that he would be raising the issue in the UK Parliament.

“There’s a lot of reticence about this issue in the House of Commons. I think there are many people who want to brush this under the carpet, who believe that too much water has flown under the bridge, and that we should just focus on bilateral relations today,” he said.

“But I’ve got some very good trusted Egyptian friends who say to me that this issue would demonstrate to the Egyptian people that the UK is serious about a new relationship with their country.”

The MP also raised the issue of the World War II land mines that British fighters left behind in the Battle of El-Alamein.

The mines have caused more than 8,000 causalities in Egypt since World War II and have led to calls for European forces to hand over maps of where they were planted. Some have argued, however, that the maps would not be of use because of the shifting sands of the Egyptian desert.

Kawczynski said he plans to “ask questions of the government as to what work is being done” to help identify where the mines are buried.

“El-Alamein is strewn with an inordinate amount of mines. And if there is even one death a year in El-Alamein as a result of these mines not being fully mapped, that is completely unacceptable,” he said.

Kawczynski called on the UK government to hand over the maps.

“It’s hugely important. I don’t understand the strategic importance, 70 years on (in not handing over the maps). We ought to be giving as much information to our Egyptian partners as possible to make sure that they know where all these mines are,” he said.

“The idea that our land mines today are causing the deaths of Egyptian citizens … because of a lack of cooperation and engagement between the British government and the Egyptian government on this issue is completely unacceptable.”

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

Updated 39 min 5 sec ago

Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

  • “Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” says Bahraini FM
  • Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program

MANAMA: Delegates from more than 60 countries including Saudi Arabia met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security after attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations, widely blamed on Iran.

“Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told the conference. “We must take a collective stand ... to take the necessary steps to protect our nations from rogue states.”

In a message to delegates, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

“This meeting comes at a critical moment in history,” he said. “The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, whether by air or sea, poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

“Together, we must all be committed to taking the necessary actions to stop countries that continue to pursue WMD at great risk to all of us.”

Countries taking part in the conference, including Israel, belong to the Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group, created in February during a Middle East conference in Warsaw.

“The meeting is an occasion to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation,” Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

After the tanker attacks, the US formed a naval coalition to protect navigation. Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, joined in August, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed in September. The UK and Australia are the other main Western partners.