Egyptian foreign minister to start a tour of the Nile Basin countries (Photo by: Reuters)
On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr is expected to arrive in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, for talks with top state officials including head of state Silva Kiir.
According to Amr Roshdi, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the talks will focus on avenues to strengthen bilateral relations between Egypt and the new state. Roshdi added that the foreign minister of Egypt would seek to assure his interlocutors in South Sudan about Cairo’s commitment to maintain firm and strengthening relations with Juba on all fronts.
“What we are looking for are good economic, trade, political and developmental elations,” Roshdi said.
According to other foreign ministry sources, Amr will also be addressing the concern raised in many quarters in Juba over the rise of political Islamic groups in Egypt.
“One could imagine that in view of the history of the long conflict between South Sudan before its independence and the ruling Islamic regime in Khartoum that the concern is high now in Juba over the potential influence of this political trend on Cairo-Juba relations,” said one source who spoke on conditions of anonymity.
He added that Cairo is seeking to reassure Juba on this matter and the foreign minister will make it clear that Cairo's commitment to good relations with the country will not be influenced by the rise or decline of any particular political group on the home front.
Amr will also raise with his interlocutors the concern in many Egyptian quarters over the "political significance" of the fact that the first overseas visit of South Sudanese head of state Kiir was to Israel.
"Of course nobody could interfere with the sovereign decisions of any country and we have no problem whatsoever with the relations between South Sudan and Israel, but we also want to make sure that the relations between Egypt and South Sudan will not be tainted with the views of any third party," said the same foreign ministry source.
Following his talks in Juba, Amr will be travelling to Nairobi, Dar El-Salam, Kigali and Kinshasa for talks with top state officials about bilateral relations with regard to economic and developmental issues. The issue of access to Nile water and Egypt's share of it would be part of the talks but it is not the only matter on the agenda, according to Roshdi who insisted that "it would be unfair to limit the whole scope of Egyptian relations with these states to the question of the Nile, as crucial as this question is."
Amr’s tour will end on 14 January in Khartoum, where the foreign minister will discuss bilateral relations and the future cooperation between the two lower stream countries regarding the Nile Basin.
Roshdi said that in Khartoum, Amr would particularly stress the need to expand trade between thte two countries, especially in light of the completion of three new roads that would link the countries, increasing the flow of trade.