Egypt’s diplomacy on Gaza

Ioannis Kotoulas
Tuesday 17 Oct 2023

Owing to its historical importance and geopolitical weight, Egypt can contribute decisively to finding a solution to the present situation in Gaza, writes Ioannis Kotoulas


The unprecedent crisis in Gaza is causing a humanitarian and security crisis whose impact must be contained with decisive measures and with respect for international law and human rights. The onslaught on Gaza threatens to bring about the collapse of the regional order in the Eastern Mediterranean and even to dismantle the diplomatic nexus of the region’s states that has been so carefully developed over the last ten years.

Amidst various maximalist declarations and the indecisiveness of many international organisations, Egypt’s geopolitical and diplomatic stance has been an example to all. The prudent leadership of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has manifested itself once again, contributing to the containment of the crisis. 

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, has rightly highlighted how the repeated orders given by Israel for Gaza residents to relocate southwards create multiple problems and a major humanitarian and security crisis. 

The Egyptian authorities have refused the passage of foreign residents of Gaza through the Rafah Crossing, except as part of a comprehensive foreign-aid delivery agreement, demonstrating their support for Gaza residents. Egypt is coordinating internal humanitarian aid for Gaza residents through the Al-Arish International Airport in northern Sinai and through routes towards the Rafah Crossing.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza requires the mobilisation of all the countries concerned to provide urgent aid. The EU must focus on providing a massive humanitarian aid package for the residents of Gaza and follow the guidelines proposed by Egypt’s leadership. The Mediterranean countries, such as EU members Greece and Cyprus, and the Arab states can coordinate within the general framework proposed by Egypt in providing much-needed humanitarian assistance and creating diplomatic synergies.

The prospect of a mass relocation of the Palestinian population of Gaza towards the Sinai Peninsula has been properly rebuffed by the Egyptian authorities and security circles. The international community needs to fully grasp the symbolic importance of Sinai for Egypt and the collective Egyptian psyche. Sinai, liberated as a result of the 1973 October War, is part of ancestral Egyptian land whose territorial integrity and existing demographic status has to remain unaltered. The forced relocation of the Palestinians can never form part of a solution to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. 

Egypt with its historical importance and its geopolitical weight could contribute decisively to a long-term solution according to UN Security Council Resolutions once this unprecedented crisis has been overcome. The most fearful prospect that could result from it is the collapse of the regional order and the diplomatic networks that have been so meticulously developed over recent years. With this worrying prospect in mind, we must all work towards a decisive de-escalation of the current tragic situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. 

Only a long-term perspective without distorting simplifications can work towards reducing the influence of radical elements and bring about a just solution in the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace with its neighbours.

* The writer is a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 19 October, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: