Russia's Medvedev urges legitimate polls in Egypt: report
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday urged Egypt to hold legitimate elections and respect religious rights following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
"Russia hopes democratic procedures in Egypt will be fully restored and all legitimate electoral procedures will be used for this," Medvedev said in a statement published on the Kremlin website.
Medvedev said a "strong, democratic Egypt (was) an important factor in the continuation of the Middle Eastern peace process" and stressed Russia would continue an "active role in international efforts to help this process."
He also emphasised the need for religious freedoms and a lack of sectarian violence, saying that "Russia "considers it extremely important that Egypt retains peace and unity between different confessions."
Medvedev called for Egypt and Russia to continue what he called a long history of "strategic partnership.
"We have actively developed political, economic and humanitarian contacts, and we hope they will continue to develop in the future," he said.
Medvedev had spoken to Mubarak on February 3, saying that he hoped that the protests would "soon be overcome through a peaceful and legal settlement," but not urging an immediate political transition.
Earlier Saturday, in the first official reaction from Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a brief statement calling for Egyptians not to resort to violence and to strengthen democratic structures.
"We expect Egypt to find a way out of the crisis that is peaceful, considers the interests of all Egyptians and aims to strengthen democratic norms in this key Arab country," it said in a statement.
Moscow also warned against outside intervention, saying that Egyptians should decide their own future.
"Just as before we are convinced that the Egyptian people are capable themselves of defining their fate and the future of their country without any outside interference," ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
Moscow saw itself as a major player in the Middle East in Soviet times when secular nationalist Arab regimes saw the Kremlin as their main patron but its role has since been dwarfed by the influence of the United States.
Mubarak had close links with the Soviet Union, where he spent several years training as a pilot at a Soviet military academy. Later, he worked to improve ties with the Kremlin as president despite his strong reliance on US aid.
© 2011 AFP