ban-ki-moon.jpgUnited Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out today against the recent violence in Egypt and Tunisia, urging the countries’ authorities and peoples not to waste the opportunity created by this year’s democratic revolutions in North Africa.

At least 12 people were killed at the weekend in Cairo, Egypt, during clashes between Muslims and Coptic Christians, while in Tunisia fresh protests led to renewed violence and the imposition of an evening curfew.

Addressing a press conference in Geneva, Mr. Ban described the revolutions as “one of the greatest opportunities to advance democracy and human rights in a generation.

“This opportunity is precious but at the same time fragile,” he said. “It must be nurtured and carefully handled by the people who created it.”

The Secretary-General said he was particularly disturbed by the bouts of sectarian violence in Egypt.

“After the prolonged display of national unity that led to the peaceful transition of power, it is critical that the Egyptian people maintain that unity of purpose to achieve their democratic aspirations.”

Turning to the rising tensions in Tunisia, he called on “all parties to solve their differences through peaceful dialogue, and to rely on existing institutions that have been created by the transitional government.”

The UN chief urged authorities in the two countries to “honour the responsibility and trust they have been given. People went on the streets to call for accountability, democracy, human rights and better prospects their leaders must work to meet these demands.”

He reiterated that the UN stands ready to provide the necessary assistance to Tunisia and Egypt to help them make progress.