William Hague's interview on the Today programme this morning included the gloomy warning the the turmoil in Egypt is unlikely to end soon. He said that 'there may be years of turbulence in Egypt and other countries going through this profound debate about the nature of democracy and the role of religion in their society, but we have to do our best to promote democratic institutions, to promote political dialogue and to keep faith with the majority of Egyptians who just want a free and stable and prosperous country'.
The turmoil means he has to choose his words carefully on the coup: it is difficult to condemn the actions of the current government, and equally difficult to condemn the actions of another group that may come to power as the churn continues. He said:
'We don't agree with military interventions in democratic processes as we made clear at the time in early July but do we deal with these people as the government of Egypt, yes we do… It is the government of Egypt, I don't think I can answer it better than that. In foreign policy terms these are the people we deal with in power in Egypt, it's not for us to take sides.'
Hague's caution in picking his words is in once sense reassuring as it shows how much hope there is for a political solution in Egypt, and one that can involve European countries. The problem for the Egyptian military is that the its crackdown on Brotherhood supporters has boosted sympathy for a group that, as Hague acknowledged in his interview, had a 'very disastrous record'. But he and others seeking a solution will also be wary of giving legitimacy to a regime that came to power through a coup and is now involved such a violent confrontation with Egyptians, even if it is through a cautious refusal to condemn.