Egypt's relationship with US now one of parity: Foreign minister

SOURCE: ahramonline
MENA, Tuesday 29 Oct 2013
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Monday that Egypt has experienced a historic change in its diplomatic ties with the US following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

"Egyptian-American relations have changed after 30 June for the first in 30 years to a peer relationship," said Fahmy during his speech at the American Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, in the presence of several diplomats and ministers.

Fahmy called on the US to understand what is happening in Egypt, adding that American and Egyptian businesses should play a role in developing joint relations between the two countries.

Mass protests took place in June calling on the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi to step down. On 3 July, the Egyptian army ousted Morsi in what it said was a response to the wishes of the Egyptian people.

On 9 October the US said it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircrafts, helicopters and missiles, as well as $260 million in cash aid, from Egypt's interim government, pending progress on democracy and human rights.

US officials stated that the decision demonstrated unhappiness with Egypt's path since 3 July. Hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters were killed in August after security forces cracked down on demonstrations.

US military aid to Egypt is worth around $1.3 billion a year.

"Egyptian decision making is now independent from any state," said Fahmy, asserting that Egypt's closeness with Russia is not a move against the US, but rather to support Egypt's role in the global sphere.

Fahmy said Egypt's foreign policy would focus on "three axis," which include the explanation of "the 30 June revolution" to the world, the "re-assessment of the centres of Egypt's soft power, focused on the Arab and African region," and the future of Syria.

"There are other crucial issues that need to be focused on including the issue of water," Fahmy added.

He stated that a high-level ministerial delegation plans to visit Ethiopia soon regarding the Nile dam under construction in the country.

The construction of the dam caused controversy in May, when the Egyptian media and politicians raised concerns that the project could affect the amount of Nile river water that reaches Egypt.

"Egypt is keen that its share of water from the Nile river remain unaffected," said Fahmy, adding that Ethiopia's need for energy and power should not necessarily reduce Egypt's water share.

Fahmy also mentioned the Arab-Israeli conflict, denouncing Israel's continuous expansion of settlements on occupied territory in Jerusalem and the repeated attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque in the city.

Regarding Syria, Fahmy said that Egypt rejects "the use of force" to "resolve the dilemma," adding that dialogue should only take place through the League of Arab States.

He further stressed the need to eliminate nuclear, chemical and biological weapons from the Middle East, saying that a team had been formed within the ministry to look into the issue.

Regarding Qatar, a former ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, Fahmy said that Egypt's ties with the country are governed by the fact that both are Arab states and part of "one family."

Fahmy said that the state must deal with the Egyptian broadcasts of Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera.

The local Al-Jazeera channel, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, has come under fire in Egypt since Morsi's ouster amid accusations of bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian officials have said that the station poses a threat to national security.

On 3 September a Cairo court ordered that the channel be taken off air along with several channels believed to be linked to Islamists.

A number of Al-Jazeera journalists have been arrested and detained since Morsi's ouster.