Taking part in the 18th summit of the heads of state and government of the Non-Aligned Movement in Baku, Azerbaijan, Egypt took the opportunity to highlight its foreign policy objectives, reports Doaa El-Bey.
“At a time when our world is facing various trade wars, armed conflicts and terrorism, we are in dire need of the Bandung principles drawn up by the founding fathers of the Non-Alignment Movement decades ago,” Mohamed Hegazi, former assistant to Egypt’s foreign minister, said at the summit held over the weekend.
This year, the summit was held under the name, “Upholding the Bandung principles to ensure the concerted and adequate response to the challenges of the contemporary world”.
Given that the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is the second most important forum after the UN, Hegazi added, it gives Cairo the chance to shed light on the targets of its foreign policy and its efforts to achieve security and stability in the region.
In his opening statement, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said that being one of the founding members of the movement, Egypt is always keen to enhance its role. He said the movement has, since its establishment, denounced the violation of the sovereignty of states and the intervention in their internal affairs, and was committed to the principles of the UN and international cooperation.
“Thus, we have to evoke these principles again and consolidate our efforts to guarantee their implementation and commitment towards them,” Shoukri said.
In this context, Shoukri condemned the Turkish occupation of Syria and its encroachment on another state as a clear violation of the principles of the NAM, the Charter of the UN and international law.
He called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria as well as the start of a political process to implement Security Council Resolution 2254 which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria.
Egypt has been calling for a political solution as the only way out of the Syrian crisis.
The Palestinian issue was pivotal at the NAM meeting, according to Hegazi, as it reflects the international community’s inability to achieve justice for an issue that has lasted for more than 70 years without being settled.
Shoukri praised NAM’s stance in favour of the Palestinian issue and pointed to the importance of reaching a fair and comprehensive settlement in view of international law, UN resolutions and the Arab peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League in 2002 at the Beirut summit and which was re-endorsed at the 2007 and 2017 Arab League summits.
On the sidelines of NAM, Shoukri held several bilateral and multilateral meetings with his counterparts.
He met his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov to discuss means of boosting bilateral ties and regional issues in addition to the latest developments on Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam negotiations.
NAM provided an opportunity for a tripartite meeting of the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.
The three ministers discussed ways of implementing the outcome of the second summit. That summit brought together Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Iraqi President Barham Salih in New York last month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in the framework of tripartite work aimed at achieving the common interests of the three countries as well as Arab interests.
In that framework, they agreed to hold the following ministerial meeting in Amman next month to prepare for the third tripartite summit level meeting to be held in Baghdad.
Moreover, the officials addressed the joint relations between their countries, means to develop joint economic cooperation, as well as further coordination and political consultation between Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Al-Hakim affirmed that Jordan and Iraq stand with Egypt in its attempts to protect its water rights and resolve the dispute over GERD through negotiations.
The ministers also discussed preparations for the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction, to be held on 18 November in New York.
In his statement to the summit, Shoukri condemned terrorism, all methods of funding, recruiting and promoting terrorism, and the use of terrorism for political purposes.
“The world’s countries must adopt a comprehensive methodology towards combating terrorism,” and implored the UN Security Council to hold all terrorism-supporting regimes to account, the statement said.
The problem of water scarcity was one of the issues, that Shoukri pointed to in his statement, which threaten several regions worldwide, including Egypt and the African Sahel.
NAM is a forum comprised of 120 developing world states that are not aligned with or against any major power bloc.
In April 1955, representatives from 29 governments of Asian and African nations gathered in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss peace and the role of the Third World in the Cold War, economic development and decolonisation.
The core principles of the Bandung Conference were political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs and equality.
Drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the NAM was established in 1961 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, through an initiative by then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito. This led to the first conference of the heads of state of non-aligned countries. The term non-aligned movement first appeared in the fifth conference in 1976.
The summit is held every three years. The last was held in 2016 in Venezuela under the theme “Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development”.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 31 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.