Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1265, (8 - 14 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Seeking a place at the top table

Egypt’s bid to gain a seat on the UN Security Council will be decided next week, writes Doaa El-Bey

Al-Ahram Weekly

Securing a place at the United Nation’s top table would crown Cairo’s efforts to open up to the world and forge a new regional and international role. Voting on Egypt’s bid to fill a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for 2016-2017 is due on 15 October.

 “Winning this seat will be a genuine victory for Cairo and give Egypt’s relations with Arab and African states a boost,” said a diplomat, who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity.

 “I don’t think it will be hard to secure the seat. Egypt’s diplomats have been making strenuous attempts to ensure it happens,” he added. “The truth is, though, it would have more straightforward if we had a parliament already in place. It would have been easier if we’d fully implemented the July 2013 road map.”

Hesham Badr, assistant foreign minister for multilateral affairs and international security, told the Weekly, “The seat will place Cairo in close contact with decision makers within the UN and allow Egypt to play a more constructive role regionally while championing developing countries in Africa and Asia.”

Egypt’s campaign to win the seat moved into high gear in August when the Foreign Ministry organised a five-day forum for delegates from Security Council permanent-member states.

 “The forum was part of an integrated plan to promote the Egyptian bid for a non-permanent seat,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid. “Our aim was to highlight Cairo’s position across the whole range of African, Arab and international issues.”

Last month, Egypt dispatched envoys to several countries to drum up support for the bid. The initiative paid dividends earlier this month when Ethiopia announced it would support Cairo.

 “We are alongside Egypt in her race to gain a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.  We always want to see Egypt playing an important role in regional, continental and global issues,” said Tewolde Mulugeta, spokesperson of the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Egypt’s campaign to secure a seat started during the 69th UN General Assembly last year. The Foreign Ministry used the occasion to distribute a pamphlet outlining the government’s foreign policies. Much of the booklet focused on Egypt’s role in pivotal Middle Eastern issues, including the Palestinian question.

The booklet highlighted Egypt’s role in UN efforts to establish peace in conflict zones across Africa and the Middle East and noted that more than 30,000 Egyptian peacekeepers had taken part in 37 UN peacekeeping missions deployed in 24 countries. Egypt currently deploys 2,659 military and police personnel in UN peacekeeping forces.

The booklet also cast a spotlight on Egypt’s ongoing attempts to promote development projects under the umbrella of the UN, the African Union and the Arab League.

During his speech to the General Assembly, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi asked for support for Egypt’s bid. It is an objective he has pursued in many of his foreign trips, especially to European states, Russia and China.

The Foreign Ministry has also put its full weight behind the campaign. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri flew to New York in April to promote Egypt’s cause.

Senior diplomats in Cairo and in Egyptian missions abroad have held meetings to canvas support, focussing particularly on African ambassadors in Cairo and representatives from Latin American and Arab states.

Cairo won Arab support for the bid during the last Arab League Summit, held in March of this year. Earlier, it secured African endorsement during the African Summit in January.

Egypt held a non-permanent seat on the Security Council between 1949 and 1950, 1960 and1961, 1984 and1985, and 1996 and 1997.

Non-permanent Security Council members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly take part in drafting resolutions and in deciding whether or not to present them. Currently, Jordan is the only Arab state among the council’s ten non-permanent members.

The African Group, one of five UN Security Council regional groups, has 54 member states. It is allocated three non-permanent Security Council seats to which African states are elected on a rotating basis. In an attempt to ensure greater attention is paid to African concerns, Cairo has called for two permanent and five non-permanent seats to be allocated to African countries.

Should that formula be accepted, winning a non-permanent seat now would place Egypt in the front rank of contenders seeking a new, permanent place on the Security Council.

Egypt’s presence on the Security Council would also allow Cairo to push for greater international efforts to confront extremism and terrorism in the region and lend weight to the longstanding campaign to ensure that the Middle East becomes an area free of weapons of mass destruction.

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