Egypt's Foreign Ministry Building in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
The nomination of Mahmoud Mekki, former vice president, to head Egypt’s diplomatic mission in the Vatican this week might be a precedent by which the president would use his legal prerogative to appoint selected non-career diplomats to head some of Egypt’s key diplomatic missions overseas.
The diplomatic corps law grants the president a maximum of 10 head of mission postings to be appointed from outside the diplomatic corps each time nominations requests for heads of missions are issued by the state.
According to sources at the presidency, the foreign ministry, and the Muslim Brotherhood, topping the list of aspiring ambassadors is leading figure of the Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, Essam El-Erian.
El-Erian is eyeing the head of Egypt’s mission in Ankara, a key capital for Egypt under Brotherhood rule. The tenure of current Ambassador to Turkey Abdel-Rahman Salah should come to an end this summer.
Other posts that the Brotherhood appear to be eyeing are also countries with “special rapport” with the Muslim Brotherhood. These include Qatar, to which Egypt sent an ambassador a year ago.
Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s ambassador to Doha (he shares the same name as the Egyptian president) sent a written complaint to the foreign ministry in Cairo complaining that he is “mostly uninformed about the ongoings" of bilateral relations between Egypt and Qatar.
The complaint was written following a recent visit to Cairo by Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Ben Jassim of which the Egyptian ambassador knew nothing.
“Things got much worse with the unannounced visits of the head of Qatari intelligence and the Qatari minister of interior to Egypt, on which the Egyptian ambassador to Qatar was uninformed,” said a diplomatic source.
The two consecutive visits of senior Qatari officials caused a furore in the state establishment at large as they were conducted without the notification of Egyptian intelligence or the ministry of interior, and without any meetings between visiting Qatari officials and their Egyptian counterparts.
Khartoum is another post the Mulsim Brotherhood is eyeing, in view of exceptionally close relations between President Morsi and Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir.
The next list of diplomatic nominations is due within the next few weeks. It includes several Arab, European, African, Asian and South American countries.
The direct intervention of the Muslim Brotherhood in the administration of Egyptian foreign policy is infuriating both foreign ministry and intelligence staff.
“It is one thing that non-state political figures use their weight to help with foreign policy matters; it is quite another for matters to be conducted away from the knowledge of state bodies,” said an Egyptian ambassador overseas, who asked to remain anonymous.
“I find it very embarassing to hear of meetings that Muslim Brotherhood figures like Amr Deraj and Khaled Kazaz are holding without even bothering to inform the embassy, even out of courtesy,” he added.
Similar complaints have been made by other heads of Egyptian missions overseas, not just in Arab but also in Western countries.
For their part, intelligence sources complain that so many the decisions that are taken by the Muslim Brotherhood on foreign policy matters reveal a lack of awareness of certain national interest guidelines. According to one, "This is especially the case in relation to the administration of relations in the Gulf."