UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband today issued a fresh call for political compromise to end the violence in Kenya as the Foreign Office continued to warn against non-essential travel.
Tour operators are due to meet again tomorrow to discuss whether to resume holiday flights to the strife-torn East African state later this week.
However, in a Commons statement, Mr Miliband warned that the potential remained for the post-election violence – which has claimed more than 300 lives – to erupt again.
He told MPs that the travel advice issued last week by the Foreign Office warning against all non-essential travel remained unchanged and urged those Britons still in the country to exercise “extreme caution”.
“That advice will remain in place until the security and political situation is clarified,” he said.
He welcomed the planned visit by Ghana’s President John Kufuor, current chairman of the African Union, in an attempt to mediate between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader, Raila Odinga.
“Kenya’s political leaders must be willing to make the necessary compromises to find a way forward. They are more likely to do so with external help,” he said.
Opposition leaders have cancelled tomorrow’s planned nationwide election protests over fears they could re-ignite the violence that has cost almost 500 lives so far.
Mr Odinga, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement who had originally called for mass demonstrations, instead pleaded for peace and said he wanted talks aimed at ending the chaos to have every chance.
President Kibaki’s government, accused by Mr Odinga of rigging the election, said the proposed demonstrations were illegal.
Earlier, the UK’s Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) met to discuss the latest situation, with a further meeting planned for tomorrow.
“There were no holiday flights due to go out to Kenya tomorrow or Wednesday and we will make a decision on Thursday’s flights on Tuesday afternoon,” said FTO spokesman Graham Lancaster.
Flights by holiday airlines to Kenya have been cancelled since the Foreign Office issued its latest travel advice last week, although scheduled flights by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Kenya Airways are continuing as normal.
Around 2,000 Britons are still holidaying in the country, while hundreds more have flown home in the last few days. So far, there have been no reports of any British tourists getting caught up in the unrest.
Most Indian Ocean tourist beach resorts are well away from the southern Kenyan town of Mombasa, while the safari parks are in isolated areas well clear of the violence that has been generally confined to urban areas.
However, UK tourists have to pass through Mombasa and Nairobi on their trips.
Any continuation of the flight ban by the UK will be bad news for the Kenyan economy which is heavily dependent on tourism.
There will also be a big financial drain on UK tour operators who are being forced to refund clients who do not wish to take up alternative trips.
Late January and the whole of February is the peak time for UK tourism to Kenya.