A victory for democracy
Doaa El-Bey assesses international reaction to the election of Mohamed Mursi
The White House congratulated Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Mursi over his win, describing Egypt's presidential election as a "milestone" in the transition to democracy. US President Barack Obama called Mursi on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory and said the US would continue to support Egypt's transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they strive to fulfil the demands of their revolution.
The statement issued by the White House urged Mursi to build bridges with non-Islamists, uphold universal values, and respect the rights of all Egyptian citizens, including women and religious minorities.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon congratulated Mursi, saying his election marked the end of one phase of Egypt's ongoing transition to greater democracy. He stressed the need to strengthen and build strong, independent institutions and allow civil society to flourish and play its role fully and freely.
The US and UN's reaction to Mursi's election contrasted with cautious Israeli statements that it respected the result. One diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that concern was high in Tel Aviv over the ascendancy of Islamists in Egypt and its impact on other countries in the region.
After noting that he respected the results of Egypt's democratic process Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he expected the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel to be upheld.
In his acceptance speech Mursi promised to uphold international agreements and protect the rights of women, children and religious minorities. "We will see whether he meets these promises or not," said the diplomat. "And we will see whether he will be able to play a more supportive role when it comes to Palestinian issues."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a telegram congratulating Mursi and wishing him success in serving the Egyptian people and maintaining Egypt's achievements in promoting the Palestinian cause.
Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government in Gaza, said his government now looked to Egypt to play a leading role in supporting the Palestinian cause and ending the siege of Gaza. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mursi has remained silent over any plans for dealing with Gaza, which shares a 15 kilometre border with Egypt.
Iran also welcomed Mursi's win. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated Mursi on Monday and called for stronger ties between Cairo and Tehran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry issued a statement congratulating Mursi. It described his win as heralding the final stages of an Islamic awakening and an era of change in the Middle East.
While Iran's response to Mursi's election was expected, says the diplomat, reports that Mursi himself wants to restore ties with Tehran could prove problematic. "If they prove true it will create problems with Gulf states and with the West and Israel.:
Mursi was quoted by Iran News Agency on Sunday saying that he wanted to restore long-severed ties with Tehran to create a strategic balance in the region. The agency said it spoke to Mursi a few hours before the result of the vote was announced on Sunday. On Monday the Egyptian President's Office denied any such conversation had taken place.
Gulf states reacted with caution to the result, welcoming the democratic process that led to Mursi's election but stressing that stability in Egypt was their main priority.
Saudi Arabia, one of Mubarak-era Egypt's closest allies, remained silent. Saudi officials are likely to be uneasy about earlier calls by the Muslim Brotherhood for political change in Saudi Arabia.
The United Arab Emirates said it respected the choice of the Egyptian people. Bahrain's King Hamad Al-Khalifa congratulated Mursi and praised the atmosphere of freedom in which the elections had been held.
Ankara said Mursi's win reflected the will of the people but added important tests await him if the Egyptian people are to attain the free and pluralist democracy they deserve.
The opposition Syrian National Council welcomed Mursi's victory, saying it provided hope to Syria's own rebellion.
A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, hailed the election as a milestone in Egypt's democratic transition, adding that Ashton hoped the new president would represent Egypt's own diversity.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague congratulated Mursi and called on the new Egyptian government to promote national unity and reconciliation, to build bridges across Egyptian society and to uphold human rights, including the rights of women and religious minorities, and the rule of law. He added that an inclusive government with a mandate to take forward reforms, and a new parliament and constitution representing the interests of all Egyptians, remained important steps in Egypt's transition to democratic government.
French President François Hollande also congratulated Mursi, saying it was important for the Egyptian transition that began in February 2011 to continue so that a democratic and pluralist political system can be established which guarantees the civil and political freedoms of all citizens.