Egypt looks to Russia as Washington ties cool
London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Cairo is eager to establish “balanced relations” with other states, based on Egypt being treated “according to its stature,” Egyptian presidential adviser Mostafa Hegazy told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Hegazy’s comments come on the eve of a visit by a diplomatic delegation from Cairo to Moscow on Thursday to discuss Egyptian-Russian relations, as relations between Cairo and Washington continue to cool.
The latest round of Cairo-Moscow diplomacy comes after Egyptian presidential media adviser Ahmed El-Muslimani said on Tuesday that diplomatic relations between Cairo and Moscow stretched back 70 years, and that Russia’s role in supporting major projects in Egypt would never be forgotten.
During a meeting with members of the delegation, Muslimani said: “The positive stance of President Vladimir Putin towards the June revolution was behind the rise in his popularity.”
As for whether the timing of this diplomatic foray with Russia is a reaction to the cooling down of relations with the US, Hegazy told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The new Egypt, as we would like it to be, is not a reactive country. Egypt always knows what to do and does so at the right time, regardless of what others may think.”
He added, “It is natural that we are a country—in this new era—which wants to build good, productive, and progressive relations with all world states, each according to their importance and desire to communicate and establish relations with us. We are keen on opening up to the world, and for relations to be built on partnership, competition, and mutual interest, as defined by the stature of each state in its own region, and for Egypt to be treated according to its stature.”
Earlier this month, Washington announced that it was suspending USD 260 million of financial aid to the Egyptian military. President Barack Obama also instructed his National Security team to revise the USD 1.5 billion a year of aid it offers Egypt.
US officials said the decision represents a fundamental change following years of unconditional aid to Egypt, and that this reduction of aid would affect a number of pending deliveries, including Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, and Abrams tanks.
The Egyptian government officially condemned the decision with the Foreign Ministry affirming that Egypt “would not allow any party to interfere in its internal affairs,” and that “the US decision will not affect Egypt’s economic and military capability.”
As for reports about an impending visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hegazy said: “Any exchange of visits is expected amid improving relations, but no specific dates have officially been set for any visit.”
A member of Egypt’s delegation to Moscow, Professor of Political Science at Helwan University, Gamal Zahran, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The aim of the visit, which begins on Thursday, is to stimulate mutual relations. The visit will include intensive talks on Friday with a number of parties including a representative of the Russian government. There is also a chance that we will be received personally by President Putin himself, or meet with the foreign minister or his deputy, as well as members of the Russian parliament.”
“The delegation also requested a visit to the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies, a think tank which is interested in the Middle East in general, and Egypt in particular. We also requested a meeting with the ministers of tourism and culture to improve public rapprochement between Cairo and Moscow,” Zahran added.
Zahran said the visit did not aim to secure strong ties with Russia to replace Egyptian-US relations, following the recent cooling of relations between Washington and Cairo.
He told Asharq AL-Awsat: “We do not replace one side with another, and we will not repeat previous actions by staging coups in international relations. We will endeavor to achieve a balance which befits Egypt’s historic, geographic, and strategic stature, and the current global climate necessitates that Egypt looks East to achieve this. Egypt must secure relations with others in a way which guarantees its national independence, and it must not accept the role of a subordinate again, after two revolutions in less three years.”
Egypt’s 12-strong delegation includes Samih Ashour, head of the lawyers’ union and member of the 50-member constitution committee, Dr. Mohamed Salmawi, head of the writers’ federation and official spokesman of the 50-member constitutional committee, former ambassador to Russia Raouf Saad, Islamist intellectual Tharwat Kharbawi, rights activist Hussam Fouda, businessman Kamil Abu Ali, Governor of Bahr Al-Ahmar region General Ahmed Abdel-Hafiz, and artisis Izzat Al-Alayly, Hind Akif, among others.