Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1169, (24 - 30 October 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Presenting the popular will

Popular diplomacy has become an effective tool in Egypt’s foreign policy since the 30 June Revolution, writes Doaa El-Bey

Presenting the popular will
Presenting the popular will
Al-Ahram Weekly

“Popular diplomacy is very important because it represents the language of the people. We had an unprecedented Revolution, and the owner of that Revolution is the people. They are the best to talk about it,” Raouf Saad, Egypt’s ambassador to Russia from 2002 to 2006, said recently.

“Foreign officials and people at this stage want to hear from non-governmental people. They want to get the other side of the story, the side they do not get through the media,” said Mona Makram Ebeid, a parliamentarian and political science professor who has recently concluded visits to Canada, the US, and France, and is now in Germany to explain the true nature of the 30 June Revolution.

Over the last three months, Egypt has witnessed unprecedented popular moves to explain to the world what happened in the country before and after the 30 June Revolution and to correct misconceptions in the western media.

Delegations made up of civil society and other figures have visited Russia, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and other states. The last delegation headed yesterday for Moscow to meet top Russian officials, and it requested a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, though this has not yet been confirmed.

Saad, a member of the Russian delegation, expected the three-day visit to inject new life into Egyptian-Russian relations. The objective of the visit is to show gratitude for the Russian stand, which supported Egypt at an important moment in its history when it was subjected to harsh criticism from the West.

“That stand reflected an understanding of the nature of the Revolution and the threat of Political Islam,” Saad told Al-Ahram Weekly.

Another objective of the Russian visit is to explain to Russian officials and the Russian people the nature of the Revolution that took place in Egypt on 30 June and to correct the misconceptions in the Western media about it.

The delegation includes two representatives from the Committee of 50 responsible for drafting Egypt’s new constitution, and these will be able to answer questions about the constitution and the country’s transitional roadmap.

The members of the delegation include Abdel-Hakim Abdel-Nasser, son of the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who established a special relationship between Egypt and the former Soviet Union and still has a special status in the hearts of many Russians.

It also includes Mohamed Salmawy, the spokesperson of the Committee of Fifty, Sameh Ashour, a member of the committee and head of the Nasserist Party, Tharwat Al-Kherbawi, a former Muslim Brotherhood member, and Gamal Zahran, a political science professor, among others.

Some commentators say that improving relations with Russia will counterbalance the deteriorating relations with the US due to its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its recent decision to suspend part of its military aid to Egypt.

wSaad said that it would be naïve to expect Egypt to shift its relations from one state to another, however. “The military side is important, but it is not like a piece of furniture that one can move from one place to another. We will focus on our interests and let the military experts talk about the military side,” he said.

Earlier this week, another delegation, also including Salmawy and lawyer and activist Mona Zul-Faqqar, concluded a visit to London during which they met with members of the UK parliament and officials in the foreign office in order to explain what happened on 30 June.

The meetings were organised by the Egyptian embassy in London.

Shortly after the dissolution of the sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adaweya in Cairo in August, a delegation left for the Swiss capital Geneva in a bid to provide the international community with a better understanding of what had been happening in Egypt since 30 June.

The delegation included Fouad Riad, an international law professor, Amir Salem, a human rights activist, Mervat Al-Tellawi, former chairperson of the National Council for Women, Salmawy and Tahani Al-Gebali, among others.

The delegation met with senior officials at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Labour Organisation and with various human rights NGOs. Meetings were also organised with the ambassadors of the Arab countries in Geneva.

Two weeks earlier, another popular diplomacy delegation concluded a visit to Brussels, where it met with Catherine Ashton, EU foreign affairs representative, as well as with other senior officials to explain the political situation in Egypt ahead of the EU’s foreign ministers meeting in which there were expectations that ministers could take punitive measures against Egypt.

The delegation emphasised the right of Egyptians to build their own state institutions, explaining the anger that had been felt in the country at the European failure to respect their will to build a democratic state and implement the roadmap agreed upon with the interim government.

The delegation included Salmawy, Zul-Faqqar, Saadeddin Ibrahim, founder of the Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies and businessman Naguib Sawiris.

Last week, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry tried to arrange for another popular diplomacy delegation, headed by journalist and former chair of the Press Syndicate Makram Mohamed Ahmed, to visit some Arab states to thank them for their supporting stand for Egypt after 30 June.

Ahmed told the Weekly that though he had met with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi last week, discussions were still underway regarding the visits.

Ahmed said that such popular diplomacy was very important, but underlined that it should be linked to other factors. “Choosing the time of a visit, in addition to the right members of a delegation, is vital to the success of any mission,” he added.

He praised the Brussels delegation, which had been successful in its mission, as was reflected in Ashton’s visit to Egypt following the delegation’s visit to Brussels. “The statement issued by the EU ministers in August was not as strong as expected either,” he added.

Ebeid said that the credibility of the members participating in the delegations and their ability to deliver their message contributed to the success of the popular diplomacy delegations. “I described what happened on 30 June to the Americans as a ‘popular impeachment’, for example, the same term they used when they deposed former president Richard Nixon,” she said.

During September and October Ebeid visited Canada and the US, and she is currently on a three-day visit to Germany to explain to officials that what happened on 30 June was a popular revolution that led to the ouster of the president.

She will be asking people to understand the aspirations of the 30 million Egyptians who took to the streets to call for democracy and social justice.

However, Ahmed did not necessarily expect the efforts exerted by such non-official diplomacy to be strong enough to change the picture of Egypt in the West. “We are faced by a high wall of assumptions that will take time and great efforts to remove. But we need to work and work hard,” he said.


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