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Manama conference: Pursuing partnerships

Attending the Manama conference does not mean Egypt approves of Washington’s Middle East plan

Doaa El-Bey , Wednesday 26 Jun 2019
Sameh Shoukri and Sergei Lavrov
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, June 24, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
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Both Cairo and Moscow agree the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be resolved on the basis of a two-state solution, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri told Russia Today in an interview during his visit to Moscow on Monday.

On the eve of the economic conference held in Manama and spearheaded by the US, Shoukri said both countries support the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and recognise the need to reach a permanent and just solution and establish a Palestinian state on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The conference was an attempt to evaluate the proposed $50 billion “Peace to Prosperity” plan presented by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner as part of a wider deal to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Stressing that Egypt’s participation in the conference does not mean it approves the proposal, Shoukri said: “It is important for Egypt to participate, to listen to this proposition and evaluate it, but the final decision lies with the main stakeholder, the Palestinian Authority.”

Several Arab states, including Egypt, received Kushner’s proposals with caution. Washington said the political aspect of the deal would be unveiled later.

The two-track approach prompted rejection not only from the Palestinians but in Arab countries with which Israel seeks to normalise relations.

Commenting on claims of Gaza’s expansion into north Sinai, Shoukri said that Cairo would not cede a single grain of Sinai sand, and that the Palestinians would not accept living on land that does not belong to them.

On the Syrian crisis Shoukri said Cairo and Moscow both wanted to ease the suffering of the Syrian people and eliminate terrorist organisations which directly threaten regional stability.

While Shoukri praised the efforts of the UN envoy to Syria, he underlined that Security Council Resolution 2254 was the most appropriate framework for resolving the Syrian crisis.

He also stressed the importance of dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition parties, away from terrorist organisations, in reaching a common vision for the future of Syria based on democracy and good governance.

Shoukri pointed to Egypt’s strong relations with Gulf countries and the importance of Gulf security to Cairo. He said Cairo considers Gulf security part and parcel of Egyptian security and rejects not just Iranian, but any non-Arab interference in Arab national security. He called for an end to the policies of hegemony, exploitation and proxy conflicts.

Shoukri stressed the consensus between Russia and Egypt over the importance of developing bilateral relations, especially economic ties, and added that both countries were committed to relieving regional tension.

Shoukri’s interview with Russia Today came during a one-day official visit to Moscow. He headed to the Russian capital with Minister of Defence Mohamed Zaki to hold 2+2 talks with their Russian counterparts.

Shoukri and Zaki also met with senior officials at Russia’s Ministry of Defence and discussed the growing partnership and cooperation between the armed forces of both countries.

The two top officials also discussed preparations for the first Russian-African summit, scheduled to be held in Sochi in October.

The current round of 2+2 consultations is the fifth to be held since 2013.

 *A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Pursuing partnerships

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