Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said yesterday that Egypt was evaluating its foreign relations and will work hard to resolve all sticking issues after going through two revolutions in as many years.
Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, took office in the first government since the army ousted President Mohamed Mursi following public pressure. He outlined his government’s policies for the next phase in a news conference held at the Foreign Ministry in Cairo on July 20.
In reply to a question about Mursi’s decision to sever relations with Syria, he said: “Egypt supports the revolution and the Syrian people’s right to democracy and is currently reviewing its position. We are working through the consulates of Syria and Egypt.” He added that “we have no intention to fight jihad in Syria,” in reference to calls for jihad against the Assad government during Mursi’s rule.
Fahmy said the issue of reestablishing relations with Syria was being reviewed, emphasizing that Egypt was eager to work for a political solution to the crisis.
On Egyptian relations with the United States, Fahmy said: “The United States is a superpower and has great influence, while Egypt has significant influence in the region. This is why the international community is interested in what is happening in Egypt.”
The White House is still hesitant about its position on the army’s ouster of Mursi on July 3, and its appointment of a new civilian government instead. However, the two-day visit by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns on July 16, gave some indication of greater American acceptance of the political changes in Egypt.
Fahmy has denied reports that the Egyptian government had asked for EU mediation in talks with Mursi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, adding that he did not know if the Brotherhood leaders had asked for EU help.
Catherine Ashton, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs, visited Cairo on July 16 and met with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time since the ouster of Mursi. Observers said, however, it was too early to talk about European-sponsored negotiations.
In response to a question on relations with Ethiopia, which have deteriorated because of the construction of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Fehmy said: “We call on the Ethiopian side to respond quickly to requests for a meeting at ministerial level, following the meetings at expert and technical committee level.”
Fahmy emphasized “the importance of guaranteeing Egyptian water security using all legitimate means to preserve Egyptian water rights and interests in the River Nile, while at the same time, respecting the aspirations of the Nile basin states, including Ethiopia, in their desire for development.”
He added: “The construction will take place according to the joint statement issued by the meeting of the two foreign ministers in Addis Ababa last June, especially in speeding up the implementation of the recommendations of the international experts’ committee, through a technical path which will include the ministers of water resources in the three countries, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, and a political path, which will include the foreign ministers of the three countries.”
The foreign minister talked about the tense relations between Cairo and Hamas, who had close links to the Muslim Brotherhood. He said: “The situation is difficult and there are many problems, however, internal stability will help find solutions.” He pointed out that Egypt will deal with the Palestinian Authority, the negotiations partner in the peace process.
He also spoke on the subject of the main responsibilities of the current government, saying: “There are responsibilities for defense, implementing the aims of June 30 revolution to achieve the aims of the Jan 25 revolution, relieve the state of polarization, reduce the chasm between the Egyptian people, achieve national reconciliation, deal with urgent internal economic and security issues, deal with foreign issues, and lay the foundations for a modern democratic state within the next nine months, in preparation to hand over the responsibility to the next government after amending the constitution and holding the parliamentary and presidential elections.”
Fahmy said he was in the process of contacting African Union states to challenge the decision by the African Peace and Security Council (PSC) to suspend Egypt’s membership in the union. He also urged the international community to meet its responsibilities in providing economic aid to the Egyptian revolution and support the Egyptian people in their legitimate aspirations for an everlasting democracy.