US-Egypt relationship 'a marriage, not a fling': Fahmy

Ahram Online , Wednesday 30 Apr 2014

'It's like a marriage. It's not a fling; it's not a one-night affair', says Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy of Egypt's relationship with the US

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy speaks to members of the media during his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, April 29, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has described Egypt-US relations as "a marriage," during an interview on Washington-based National Public Radio (NPR).

Fahmy is currently on a visit to the United States during which he has met a number of high-level officials, including members of the foreign affairs committee of the House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry.

"It's like a marriage. It's not a fling; it's not a one-night affair. This is something, if you're going to invest in it, it's going to cost you a lot of money, it's going to take time, and you're going to have to make a lot of decisions... I think it's well-founded, but any marriage has its hiccups."

According to the NPR website, Fahmy spoke about a number of issues, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the trial of Al-Jazeera journalists, and espionage charges charged against political scientist Emad Shahin.

Asked how long the Brotherhood would remain banned, Fahmy said that he did not believe the Islamist organisation would be "back in the system during the next few years."

'We need to ensure security'

The Brotherhood was designated a terrorist group in December 2013 and all its activities were banned, making it subject to Article 86 of the Egyptian penal code, which defines terrorism and the penalties for engaging in it.

The group has been blamed by the authorities for a number of attacks on police and army targets.

"We need to ensure security, so there is calm and then there is more tolerance for political space — not between the government and the Brotherhood, but among society itself, because that's where we need to go and that's where we will go," Fahmy said.

He referred to the Brotherhood's "inability to change their own ideology," noting that it was "regrettably exclusive, rather than inclusive."

Mass death sentences

On Monday, a court passed death sentences on 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi, including the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.

The same judge sentenced 529 Brotherhood supporters to death in March, causing a public outcry, both locally and internationally.

Fahmy was asked for a comment about a New York Times editorial which claimed Egyptian courts are no longer independent.

"I think it's nonsense. They can agree or disagree with the court verdict, as Egyptians can agree or disagree with the court verdict. The idea that this is a government-organised charade is, frankly, quite a stretch," he said.

The foreign minister said the legal system follows due process "very, very carefully" and stated that it is committed to reviewing all cases and appeals.

"It's going to be a serious consideration; it's going to be a serious verdict. But there will be due process. If there were mistakes, there will be corrections. If there aren't any mistakes, they will be made evident to everyone," Fahmy asserted.

Al-Jazeera journalists

Twenty Al-Jazeera journalists are currently being tried for aiding or joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, as well as harming national unity and social peace.

Fahmy said the government had issued a statement guaranteeing the role of local and foreign journalists.

He added that interim President Adly Mansour had sent letters to the families of at least two of the accused journalists to assure them they were getting all the treatment and access they require.

However, Fahmy pointed out that Mansour had told the families he "can't interfere in a court case."

"The idea that there is this direction to prohibit journalists from doing their work is simply incorrect. Journalists in Egypt are completely open, they do whatever they want — much more than, frankly, they should do, but that's part of the profession... I'm not belittling the importance of this case, but it has to be left to the courts. They decide," Fahmy noted.

Emad Shahin

Emad Shahin, professor of public policy at the American University in Cairo, has been charged with espionage in a case whose co-defendants include ex-president Morsi.

Shahin said in January that allegations against him were "baseless and politically-motivated."

In an online statement, he denied he had ever been a member of or given material support to the Brotherhood, claiming that his "true offence" was being a vocal critic of developments in Egypt since the ouster of Morsi last July.

Fahmy, a former dean at the same university, claimed that he "can't give a verdict of guilt or innocence" for any individual in a court case.

"But I have raised the issue and conveyed my concern within our own authorities to ensure that the case is done with meticulous precision; that full freedom and rights to defense be provided to him," Fahmy emphasised.  


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