Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Two years after 30 June

Many states supported Egypt after the 30 June Revolution, while others failed to understand what had happened. Two years later, many things have changed, writes Doaa El-Bey

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The three main objectives of Egypt’s post-30 June foreign policy have been portraying a correct and proper image of Egypt to the international community, restoring the role of Egypt in the Arab world, Africa, the Mediterranean region and among the international community, with a particular focus on issues relating to Egypt’s national security, and outlining a comprehensive platform for the future of the country’s foreign policy.

Egypt’s top officials, ambassadors and missions abroad have worked to portray this correct and proper image of Egypt to the international community and restore Egypt’s role.

Two years after the 30 June Revolution in 2013, such efforts seem to be paying off, as Egypt now enjoys a more diverse network of relations with world states based on equality, mutual respect and mutual interests.

Egypt’s relations with the US have seen various ups and downs during the last two years. However, the decision taken by the US Congress last month to retain the US military aid to Egypt has been regarded as a positive move. The US aid to Egypt has been a controversial matter over the last two years, and there have been calls to cancel or review it.

The other breakthrough in relations with the US was US president Barack Obama’s decision to send Egypt 12 US F-16 fighter jets earlier this year. The fighter jets and other weapons had been held up after the 30 June Revolution following the ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As a result, the US was regarded as a supporter of the Brotherhood for a time. But the US Congress’s refusal to officially receive a Muslim Brotherhood delegation last month was another positive sign that US support for the Brotherhood is waning.

In the weeks following Morsi’s ousting, the Obama administration was careful not to label what had happened as a “coup,” in part because doing so would have put an end to the $1.3 billion in military aid the US gives Egypt each year. But Obama announced the cancellation of joint military exercises with Egypt to show Washington’s displeasure.

In 2014, Obama also said he did not consider Egypt either an “ally” or an “enemy” of the United States.

Russia was more definite in its support for the June 30 Revolution, and Egyptian-Russian relations have been on the rise over the last two years. Russian president Vladimir Putin is likely to visit Cairo again in the near future, and Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi visited Russia last year.

The top-level visits gave new impetus to the development and strengthening of relations. The main field of bilateral cooperation is the military-technical field, and last year Moscow and Cairo signed arms contracts worth $3.5 billion, including deliveries of helicopters, aircraft, and air-defence systems. Russia and Egypt held their first ever joint naval exercises last month.

Other fields of expected cooperation include trade, energy, and tourism as well as investment in fields from infrastructure to high technology. The Aswan High Dam, an Egyptian mega-project financed by a loan from the former USSR in the 1960s, has long been a symbol of cooperation and friendship between the two states.

Relations with Europe also saw a breakthrough after Al-Sisi’s visit to Germany in early June. Although the visit was preceded by negative remarks made by the speaker of the Bundestag, or German parliament, Norbert Lammert and other officials, Al-Sisi chose to downplay the significance of these remarks and look at the benefits of the visit in boosting economic relations with Germany.

Germany adopted a rather hostile stand to Egypt after the 30 June Revolution and the ousting of Morsi. But the two countries have reasons to keep good relations, as Egypt is keen to normalise its relations with an important European state like Germany and Germany wants to keep good relations with Egypt because Cairo can play a pivotal role in resolving important issues in the Middle East, especially in Libya and Yemen.

During Al-Sisi’s visit to Germany, a number of important contracts in energy, housing, infrastructure, education and other fields were signed.

Last year also saw two other important European visits that further contributed to meeting the objectives of Egypt’s foreign policy in establishing diverse relationships with world states. The first visit was to Italy, France and the Vatican in November.

In France, Al-Sisi discussed with French officials ways to boost bilateral dialogue on various regional and international issues, among the Palestinian issue. The visit also boosted military, cultural and economic relations between the two states.

Al-Sisi’s visit to Italy was not less important, especially on the economic level given that Rome is Egypt’s number one trade partner in the EU.

That visit was preceded by a tripartite summit hosted by Cairo that brought together Greece, Cyprus and Egypt. The summit discussed ways of deepening cooperation among other issues. Both the Cypriot and Greek leaders, whose countries are EU members, said they would act as “ambassadors” for Egypt within the EU.

Improving ties with Africa in general and with the Nile Basin states in particular has been a priority in post-30 June Egypt. Foreign minister Sameh Shoukri toured several African states this year to enhance relations with them.

In its relations with the Nile Basin states, especially Ethiopia, Egypt has tried to produce a win-win situation, giving priority to confidence-building measures.

During his visit to Addis Ababa in March, Al-Sisi addressed the Ethiopian parliament and called for a new era of cooperation and development between the two states. He pointed to Egypt’s commitment to the Declaration of Principles on the $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the mutual interests of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Al-Sisi’s participation in the African Union (AU) summit in June 2014 was another breakthrough in Egypt’s relations with Africa. The summit, held in Equatorial Guinea in June, contributed to lifting the ban on Egypt’s membership of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PSC), thawing Egyptian-African relations.

Immediately following Morsi’s removal, the African Union suspended Egypt from the PSC because it regarded the step as a “deviation” from the democratic path. The ban was lifted a few days before the summit after Egypt took two further steps on its post-30 June road map, namely the ratification of the new constitution and the presidential elections.

During the AU summit, Al-Sisi met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and the two leaders issued a joint statement that underlined the basic principles governing their relations. Ethiopia would understand the importance of the Nile River to Egypt and Egypt would appreciate the Ethiopian need for development, the statement said.

Relations between Cairo and Addis Ababa had been strained because of the Dam. Egypt was concerned the Dam would impact its share of the water provided by the River Nile, while Ethiopia stated that the Dam, intended to generate electricity, would not affect the amount of Nile water reaching Egypt.

Egypt’s relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have been more or less stable over the last two years. The three states welcomed the ouster of Morsi and gave Egypt strong support after 30 June.

The three Gulf states initially pledged a total of $12 billion of financial assistance to Egypt. By the end of 2013, some $8 billion had been transferred.

However, differences started to appear between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over ways to resolve the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen, in addition to dealing with the Iranian influence in the region.

Egypt’s relations with Qatar have been a different story. Qatar, a strong supporter of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, opposed his removal and tensions have increased since July 2013.

Doha considered the 30 June Revolution to be a “military coup” and continued to attack Egypt through its TV channel Al-Jazeera. It then opened its doors to receive wanted Brotherhood leaders, also providing them with a media platform. It withdrew the economic support it had provided Egypt during the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.

All of this resulted in a major deterioration in Egyptian-Qatari relations, leading to the withdrawal of the Egyptian ambassador from Qatar in February last year. However, last year saw a breakthrough between Egypt and Qatar after the late Saudi king Abdullah called for reconciliation between Cairo and Doha.

The death of king Abdullah in January stalled that attempt, but there were other signs of easing tension when Qatar expelled some prominent Brotherhood leaders from Doha in September last year.

A similar breakthrough has not happened in Egypt’s relations with Turkey. The relationship between Cairo and Ankara deteriorated quickly after Morsi was deposed. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly opposed the removal of Morsi from power, describing the 30 June Revolution as a “coup” and criticised the post-30 June government and the present one on numerous occasions.

Both countries recalled their ambassadors in August last year. The Turkish ambassador returned to Cairo in September, but Egypt has not returned its ambassador to Ankara.

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