Egypt-US strategic relations based on mutual interests: FM

Amr Kandil , Saturday 13 Feb 2021

Bilateral relations have persisted regardless of the ruling party in Washington, Shoukry said

Egypt FM Sameh Shoukry (file photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said on Friday that Egypt and the US enjoy a four-decade-old strategic relationship, adding that Cairo deals in a pragmatic manner with all US administrations -- despite occasional differences in viewpoints -- based on mutual interests.

Egypt needs to explore the stances of the new US administration under President Joe Biden on regional issues to be able to assess the degree of Egyptian-American consensus, Shoukry said in a telephone interview with El-Hekaya show on MBC Masr.

"The new US administration has not yet revealed its positions in respect of many regional issues and we have to explore them,” the Egyptian foreign minister said.

When it does, Egypt can then determine “to what extent there is a consensus or consistency in the positions of the two countries.”

Asked whether the foreign ministry had “concerns” towards the Biden administration, Shoukry stressed “there is certainly no room for any concerns and no room for any optimism,” since "it all depends on the normal and practical management of bilateral relations."

Shoukry affirmed that Egypt currently maintains contact with the US through the former’s embassy in Washington, the Department of State and the White House National Security Council.

"Over the past four decades, (Egypt-US relations) have been strong, strategic, and have had many fields of cooperation and common gains,” Shoukry said.

The US is a superpower with both political and economic capabilities that make it important (for Egypt) to deal with it and find out mutual interests,” he added.

Bilateral relations have persisted regardless of the ruling party in Washington and despite some different viewpoints both countries shared over the past decades, Shoukry said.

The relations… have continued, whether the administration is republican or democratic. This succession over the past 40 years has made us deal with different administrations that held different viewpoints. We always had in-depth dialogue with them, as well as points of consensus and points of difference.”

He added that the difference in views eventually found a point of consensus.

On many occasions, the Egyptian point of view is correct, and the American point of view is correct, and we assess the matter eventually according to events and results,” Shoukry noted.

The Egyptian foreign minister discussed various foreign policy issues in his telephone interview, including reconciliation with Qatar, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Libya, the Palestinian cause and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

On Qatar, Shoukry said Cairo and Doha would review, through bilateral committees, the steps they would take to activate the commitments stated in the Al-Ula reconciliation agreement signed in Saudi Arabia.

We are in the process of setting a date for these bilateral committees’ meetings,” Shoukry said, adding that “there will be a review of all the existing commitments imposed on the two parties, and also an assessment of the extent to which these pledges have been observed."

Asked about a “semi-aggressive tone” by some Qatari media outlets against the Egyptian state, Shoukry said Egypt monitors and documents all what is released by the media outlets in Qatar and that these issues will be included in the review.

On the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, Shoukry voiced his disapproval of Turkey’s condemnation of the Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot cooperation.

He reiterated that the three countries have affirmed that their meeting in Athens last week aimed at furthering cooperation and did not negatively target any party.

In fact, it is strange to see this type of reaction [from Turkey] unless one concludes Turkish policies are based on a negative attitude,” Shoukry said, adding “we have not given any weight [to the Turkish reaction] or paid any attention to it.”

On the Libyan conflict, Shoukry expressed Egypt’s hope that a new Libyan government will be formed within the agreed upon timeframe and that national elections will be held on 24 December as planned.

Shoukry affirmed that the new interim government in Libya has an obligation to honour that date “in order for the Libyan people to express their will and elect their representatives.”

The foreign minister said he also expects full respect of the Egyptian national security through thwarting any threat to the Egyptian western border coming from the Libyan territories.

Shoukry stressed Egypt’s commitment to the efforts to reach a binding legal agreement in the dispute over the filling and operation of the GERD in a way that fairly takes into consideration the interests of the three countries.

We have put ourselves in the place of the Ethiopian side; we seek to achieve its interests in terms of generating electricity as long as it takes into account our interests in preserving the water coming to Egypt and Sudan and managing the dam in a safe way that does not result in any harm to the brothers in Sudan,” Shoukry stated.

Shoukry expressed hope that Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, whose country chairs the African Union (AU) this year, will resume the GERD talks under the auspices of the AU.

He added that Egypt looks forward to furthering coordination with the Sudanese side on ways to resolve the GERD dispute, especially in light of the formation of the new Sudanese Cabinet.

Rounds of talks among the three concerned countries in the GERD issue have ended in deadlock, with Sudan dismissing the way talks are currently held as “unproductive” and with Egypt blaming the stalemate on Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Ethiopia frequently affirmed that it would implement the second phase of filling the massive dam under any circumstances, although the parties have not yet reached a binding legal agreement and despite Sudan’s warning of “disastrous” implications that may occur without having a deal.

During the interview, Shoukry highlighted the stance of the new US administration on the Palestinian cause, which considers the two-state solution the way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He added that the international community represented in the European Union, the US, China, and Russia all consider the two-state solution the “realistic solution” to the Palestinian issue.

The US and European remarks all endorse the two-state solution, as it is the way that leads to the end of the conflict, achieves the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and establishes its state,” Shoukry stated.

This comes a few days after Egypt hosted an emergency Arab League meeting with Arab foreign ministers to discuss ways to support the Palestinian cause. It also brokered a reconciliation dialogue among rival Palestinian factions.

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