The seven years in the life of the 30 June Revolution make up the most critical period in contemporary Egyptian history. In fact, we might dub the numerous and diverse battles Egypt has fought on different fronts during this period “the new crossing”.
In 1973, the Egyptian army’s crossing of the Suez Canal culminated in the liberation of Sinai. The current period we might dub the “inward crossing”; another liberation process that addresses crucial challenges on the home front starting from the need to rebuild a state that had been severely shaken by the political turmoil that erupted in 2011.
The institutional reconstruction of the state and reinstitution of its civil character evolved into a comprehensive nation construction process involving national infrastructural development mega-projects hand-in-hand with an ambitious economic reform programme to revitalise the Egyptian economy and set it on the path to increased productivity and greater competitiveness.
At the same time, it was essential to counter threats to the home front. The most serious was the terrorism that had begun to proliferate in Sinai and elsewhere. Our heroic army and police fought at the forefront of this battle, which Egypt has fought on behalf of the world.
Egypt, since its June 2013 Revolution, has also fought to rebuild its status and influence in foreign affairs. In the process, Cairo struck a finely calibrated balance in its relations with the two superpowers, Russia and the US, based on the principles of mutual respect and appreciation, friendship and mutual support.
A similar spirit prevails in its long-established relationship with the EU, Egypt’s most important trading partner which is bound to Egypt and the Arab region as a whole by long historic bonds. At the regional level, Egypt has taken a lead, again, in turning Arab relations into a force that safeguards Egyptian/Arab national security and that fends off the ill-intentioned designs of non-Arab regional powers from Turkey and Iran to Ethiopia and Israel.
As always, Egypt is keen to help its fellow Arab nations reach solutions to crises in order to protect the security and territorial integrity of Arab countries. The Cairo Declaration, an Egyptian initiative to revive the political process in Libya, was the most recent example of Egyptian efforts in this regard. We continue to hope that Egyptian diplomacy will lead to firmer international resolve to bring peace to Libya and to stand up to the warmongers bent on exploiting the turmoil of the Libyan crisis and perpetuating the conflict to achieve their own ends.
Egypt continues its long drive to develop its important and historic relations with China, India, Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries, and it is forever open to new relations with potential foreign partners on the basis of mutual respect and benefit.
Egypt also continues to earn international respect and admiration as a model for the preservation of region security and stability. It stands firm in the face of destabilising designs, as is currently the case in its negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, in which Egypt seeks to avert conflict with a fellow African nation, apply the principles of international law and ensure the fulfillment of the rights of all parties in a fair and equitable manner.
A similar spirit applies to Egypt’s handling of the Palestinian cause, the central Arab cause in the defence of which Egypt has made enormous sacrifices. Currently Cairo is working with other Arab governments to prevent the Israeli annexation of more occupied Palestinian territory.
Since President Al-Sisi took the helm six years ago, Egyptian diplomacy has been particularly active on the African front. In 2017, Egyptian-African relations entered an unprecedented period of blossoming as Cairo worked together with other African capitals to further inter-African cooperation and integration and African security and stability, as epitomised by Egyptian contributions to the “Silencing of the Guns” initiative and the establishment of the Aswan Forum as a regional platform for the exchange of ideas on security and strategy related issues.
Egypt has defended African rights in numerous international forums from the Paris Climate Conference to major economic summits in which it urged for debt relief, investment drives and other urgent measures to support African economies and to alleviate economic hardship and unemployment in Africa, the chief causes of illegal migration. In July last year, when Egypt chaired the African Union, Egypt worked together with its fellow African nations to establish the African Free Trade Zone, a major landmark towards the realisation of African economic integration.
Egypt has striven not just to fight threats to global and regional peace and security, it has also worked to build a nation with the power to protect the resources and capacities of the people, to protect national and Arab security, to support African countries and to forge solid partnerships with all countries of the world without discrimination and to work together with them individually and collectively to counter the threats posed by the meddling of certain regional powers in Arab domestic affairs.
Egypt prays that its efforts in collaboration with brotherly Arab nations will reenergise the Arab position and bolster Arab national security strengths in the face of outside threats, and above all Iranian meddling in the Gulf and Turkish interventions in Libya, Syria and Iraq.
The June Revolution made it possible to rebuild and revive the national economy. Not only did it become possible to launch the difficult but successful economic reform programme, it also generated conditions for nationwide infrastructural projects that included 7,000 kilometres of roads, a new administrative capital and a second Suez Canal; for the development of the oil and energy infrastructure and a modernised banking infrastructure; and for the establishment of new universities, the modernisation of the educational system and a crucial digitalisation drive in banking and other sectors.
Thanks to all these advances, the Egyptian economy has been able to recover its robustness and dynamism, earning the appreciation and esteem of international financial institutions.
However, the inspiration for all this progress and, indeed, the very heart of the 30 June Revolution is the Egyptian people. The national spirit expresses itself most explicitly in healthcare projects such as the “100 Million Healthy Lives” initiative to eliminate the hepatitis C virus, the educational reform and modernisation drive, and renewed attention to culture and the arts. After all, health, education and culture and the arts are quintessential components of human development.
As we celebrate this anniversary of the 30 June Revolution, we mark another year in the Egyptian people’s march to the future. We are working quickly to make up for years lost. But we are on course in our development as a nation capable of safeguarding its interests, protecting its region and advancing the cause of peace and security in this region and in the world.
*The writer is former assistant foreign minister.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly