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Egypt: From One Nobel Laureate to Another


I have been asked to comment on news reports that Yemen's Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman has been denied entry into Egypt after she landed at Cairo airport.

As noted, she had intended to join the sit-in protests by Morsi supporters in the Egyptian capital.

At the same time, Egypt's interim military-backed leadership has issued strong warnings that the "clock is ticking" on a peaceful end to the current standoff in Cairo.

In such volatile situations and in the face of a very polarized society, maybe the Egyptian authorities acted wisely for Ms. Karman's own safety.

Ms. Karman has proven to be a very courageous leader in her own very fragmented country. If I were her, however, I would not venture into a situation such as the one we see in the streets of Cairo and other major cities and take sides. I add that Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and others with experience in such extremely tense, volatile social and political environments should be very cautious, not taking sides, at least publicly, to avoid further inflaming passions on either side of the divide.

In certain situations there isn't much that outsiders may do to influence the course of events; sometimes it is more prudent that external forces or interests stay out until all local parties ask for some sort of facilitation of dialogue.

In fast developing situations such as the one in Egypt, we should simply and sincerely appeal to all sides to pull back from head-on confrontation; observe a few days of truce, to look after the sick and wounded, allow time and space for honoring the dead, and reflect, review the situation.

If the position of Nobel Peace Prize laureate adds authority and force to one's words, it is better used to encourage calm, dialogue and peaceful resolution than to further polarize.

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