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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Spotlight on Egypt as the belle of the ball in regional diplomacy

Spotlight on Egypt as the belle of the ball in international diplomacy

Egypt has found itself being courted by numerous international powers, all with varying agendas that see the country as crucial to implementing their goals in the Middle East. This appears to be giving Egypt significant leverage on the international arena, allowing it to assert its policies and vindicating President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’ multi-polar foreign policy doctrine.

Over in Brussels — where the endgame for the EU is stemming the flow of illegal migrants from North Africa — Egypt was promised further support through development programs by the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos who met with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Shoukry reasserted Egypt;s position that it will not hold detention camps for migrants and refugees, Ahram Gate reported. The meeting, which is part of a series of talks which could see Egypt reach and Turkey-style migration agreement with the EU, follows a state visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel last weekend, where she signed for USD 500 mn in new aid for Egypt and promised El Sisi additional aid to help thwart migration.

Egyptians were spared entry into Trump’s Muslim ban a second time around. President Donald Trump has not made his admiration of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi a secret, as some of his top advisers advocate for forming a regional alliance with Egypt at the center, despite some in the US press decrying that this comes at the expense of human rights. It appears we are heading that way following United States Central Command Commander General Joseph L. Votel’s visit last month where he called for renewing the Bright Star joint military exercises. the Jerusalem Post’s Joel Rosenberg makes the argument for why Trump must do more to court President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, which he describes as having leading a reformation of Islam in the region. Rosenberg dismisses human rights violations and feels this strengthening of ties will lend itself well to isolating Iran.

On the flipside, Iran has seen an opening in the fallout between Egypt and Saudi Arabia and is more openly making overtures to Egypt. Most recently, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed the hope for the removal of obstacles to stronger relations with Egypt, which he described as a “major” country in a weekly presser in Tehran on Monday, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reports.

Iran’s ally Russia also sees Egypt as crucial to regaining influence in the region. While it continues to play coy on the tourism front — hinting at a trade off of Russian tourists for the USD 29 bn Daba’a power plant — it is looking to expand bilateral and economic ties. 17 agreements were signed this week during a Russian trade delegation visit to expand the Russian Industrial Zone in the Suez Canal.

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