Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1252, (25 June - 1 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Ambassadorial reshuffle

Egypt’s new ambassadors and other representatives abroad will continue to present and explain the country’s foreign policy to the outside world, writes Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

The diplomatic reshuffle announced on 21 June included changes in Egypt’s representatives in major capitals like Washington, Berlin, Riyadh, Kuwait and in the UAE. But perhaps the most important step was the appointment of Hazem Khairat as Egypt’s sixth ambassador to Tel Aviv.

One diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said the appointment of Khairat as Egypt’s ambassador to Tel Aviv had raised the level of relations between the two states “without good reason”.

“Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv two years ago in protest at Israeli practices in Gaza. Today nothing has changed, so why are we appointing a new ambassador,” the diplomat asked.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati declined to comment on the matter, but he described the reshuffle as part of a routine yearly movement. “Those ambassadors who are finishing their terms abroad will return to the Foreign Ministry in Egypt and be replaced by others who will start their four-year missions,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Al-Sayed Amin Shalaby, executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, a think tank, said that the return of an Egyptian ambassador to Tel Aviv did not mean raising the level of relations between the two states.

It was part of the “continuity of relations” that have been seen since the Camp David Accords in 1979, he said.

“We have recently seen active moves to revive the Peace Process,” Shalaby explained, especially after this week’s visit of French foreign minister Laurent Fabius to Cairo with a new peace initiative.

“If we are on the threshold of reactivating the Peace Process, Egypt should possess the right diplomatic channels for it. One of these channels is the presence of an ambassador in Tel Aviv,” he said.

Relations between Egypt and Israel were downgraded in reaction to the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2012. The Egyptian ambassador at the time, Atef Sayed Al-Ahl, was withdrawn and subsequently did not return. 

Khairat, the new ambassador, is assistant foreign minister for ambassadorial and consular staff in Cairo. He has worked in the past as permanent representative of Egypt to the Arab League and Egyptian ambassador to Syria and Chili.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued a presidential decree naming the heads of the diplomatic missions due to leave the Foreign Ministry for postings abroad at the beginning of September.

The reshuffle included dispatching Yasser Reda as the new ambassador to the US and Mohamed Abul-Dahab and Lamia Mekheimar as the new consuls in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively.

Abdel-Ati said there was a strategic relationship and mutual interests between Cairo and Washington, as well as a long history of cooperation that had extended for four decades, giving the relationship between the two states a special status.

“The change of ambassadors is a routine movement that takes place every four years in each country,” he said.

Abdel-Ati himself was once Egypt’s ambassador to Germany, and he has worked as Foreign Ministry spokesman since June 2012 under former foreign ministers Mohamed Kamel Amr and Nabil Fahmi, as well as the present minister Sameh Shukri.

Egypt’s relations with Germany are of special importance at the present time because of the influential role Germany plays in the EU and the interest of both states to boost relations after Al-Sisi’s visit to Berlin earlier this month.

As part of the reshuffle, new ambassadors were appointed to various Arab states, including Nasser Hamdi Zagloul to Riyadh, Yasser Atef to Kuwait, Wael Gad to the UAE, Sabry Magdi to Oman and Soha Al-Far to Bahrain.

Other new appointments include Hatem Seif Al-Nasr to the Vatican, Abdel-Rahman Salah to Prague, Hussein Mubarak to Cyprus, Mahi Abdel-Latif to Norway, Alaa Rushdi to Brazil, Youssef Mekkawi to Slovenia, Olfat Farah to Croatia and Sherif Shahin to Islamabad.

Ali Youssef has been made Egyptian consul in London and Ahmed Shahin is the new consul in Milan.

In Africa, Abu Bakr Hefni has been named Egypt’s ambassador in Addis Ababa, and Yasser Al-Shawaf has been made ambassador to Tanzania. Both positions are important in the light of Egypt’s aim of improving its relations with African countries in addition to the ongoing negotiations with Ethiopia on the Nile Water issue.

The diplomatic reshuffle is the second to have taken place under al-Sisi’s leadership. The first happened shortly after his election as president and included the replacement of ambassadors sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nothing was mentioned in the Foreign Ministry statement about the appointment of new ambassadors to either Turkey or Qatar or the return of withdrawn ambassadors.

It is too early to talk about the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Turkey, according to Shalaby. “The decision is not in the hands of Egypt. It is [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdogan who caused the rift in relations. Until he changes his belligerent stand and stops attacking the Egyptian government, relations will not improve,” he said.

Egypt’s ambassadors to Ankara and Doha were withdrawn because both Turkey and Qatar had been attacking the Egyptian government in the press and international forums.

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