British Ambassador John Casson paid a visit to Al-Masry Al-Youm, in order to participate in an interactive dialogue with readers via Twitter.
The questions were related to politics, education, economy and the ambassador’s passion to learn both the classical and the colloquial Arabic.
The ambassador said that he chose to come to Egypt because it is an important country in the region, and because he "loves it very much."
When asked why he prefers to connect with people on social networking sites, he said ambassadors can no longer sit in closed offices in the 21st century.
“Modern diplomacy requires a deep understanding of the people of a country, so as to come up with the right solutions,” he said. “President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told me that I should see the Egyptian people through their eyes. That is why I want to learn the colloquial language.”
On the political level, Casson said the British people abhor terrorism just as Egyptians do, pointing out that he was in the United Kingdom in 2005 when terrorists killed 52 people in the London Bombings.
“About 140 people have been charged with terrorism in England since 2010,” he said, adding that British laws are very strict against anyone who commits or incites terrorism and extremism. “Britain is not a safe haven for terrorists.”
On Britain’s final report about the Brotherhood's activities in the United Kingdom, the ambassador said the charges against the Brotherhood are extremely serious and must be dealt with with evidence and proper response, adding that the report will be announced soon, in conjunction with Britain’s new strategy against extremism. “We will inform the Egyptian authorities of the report before it is published,” he said.
He said Britain's position regarding Egypt has not changed since June 30, 2013, explaining that Britain supports the restoration of the constitutional rule and does not favour any particular party or movement. “I am optimistic,” he said. “The relations will be strengthened over the next year.”
He said no one can determine the future of Egypt, other than Egyptians themselves, adding that Britain supports the Egyptian people and government in their efforts to build a more democratic future for the country.
“Democracy should come from within. It cannot be imposed from outside,” he said. “We want to help Egyptians consolidate human rights and democracy because they are the basis of stability in any country.”
On the death and life imprisonment sentences against Mohamed Morsi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Casson said the British Minister for Middle East and North Africa Affairs, Tobias Ellwood, issued a statement saying that London is deeply concerned about those sentences, and that it will follow closely the further stages of the process.
“As a matter of principle, the British government opposes the death penalty under any circumstances,” he said.
On the economic level, the ambassador said Britain is the largest investor in Egypt, with US$24 billion in investments since 2010, pointing out that the $12-billion gas deal between Egypt and British Petroleum is the largest in the history of Egypt.
He added Britain invests in telecommunication, energy, industry, banks and the retail sector, hoping to create new jobs for the Egyptian youth.
“The Sharm El-Sheikh Economic Conference was an important step for Egypt,” he said. “The priority now is to implement the projects that were agreed upon.”
With regard to the British support for education in Egypt, the ambassador said the British Council is working with the Egyptian Ministry of Education to reform and develop education, in order to reach the efficiency level of the British system.
“The amount of Chevening scholarships was raised from 30 to 80 a year,” he said.
About the visa procedures, Casson said Britain is trying to provide a quick and easy system for all applicants, adding that applicants are responded to within eight days. “More than 80 percent of the applications are approved,” he said.
The ambassador also used the “almasrydebates” hashtag to post links about scholarships in Britain and job openings at the British Embassy in Cairo.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm