Mohamed Kamel Amr is the surprising choice for foreign minister

Dina Ezzat , Monday 18 Jul 2011

The new minister, seen as a safe choice, is a career diplomat who has served in Washington and Saudi Arabia

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Egypt's former foreign minister Mohamed El-Orabi

He is the third foreign minister of Egypt in a span of less than six months. Mohamed Kamel Amr, a career diplomat, was assigned to the top diplomatic job on Sunday by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, with the consent of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Amr is taking over from Mohamed El-Orabi, who kept the job for three weeks before he resigned to "spare Sharaf the pressure" which came with anti-Orabi sentiment, circulating due to the fact that he happened to be the ambassador of Egypt in Germany during the years when former president Hosni Mubarak and his spouse Suzanne Mubarak frequented a number of German hospitals for medical treatment. El-Orabi himself had taken up the job from Nabil El-Arabi who was selected for the job in mid-March, a few weeks after Mubarak had to step down, and left the foreign minister's office to assume the job of the Arab League secretary-general earlier this month.

Unlike El-Orabi who had retired a few weeks before his assignment as foreign minister, Amr, like El-Arabi, has been out of the system for several years.

In the 1990s, Amr served as a counsellor in the embassy of Egypt in Washington and he was then assigned as the ambassador of Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Later Amr was made the permanent representative of Egypt to the World Bank, a job which he kept for about a decade before he came back to Egypt about a year ago.

The choice of Amr raised a few eyebrows in many diplomatic quarters for the simple fact that he has been out of the picture for so long and his name was never associated with possible candidature for the job. However, according to a source in the office of Sharaf, this is one of the main reasons that he was selected for the job. "His name cannot be associated with Mubarak – at least not with the last 10 years of the Mubarak regime which are considered the worst".

Amr is also selected, according to the same source, for the fact that he is a career diplomat, even if disassociated from the foreign service for about a decade, which avoids introducing a non-career diplomat and antagonising the members of one of the most important state institutions.

Kamel is also well acquainted with the economic dimension of international relations which is perceived, according to the same source at the office of the prime minister, as a top priority now.

But most of all, Kamel, who is around 68, is aware that he is being assigned a transitional job and he knows that his major task now is to keep things moving pending the election of a new parliament and a new president, according to the same source.

Amr was expected at the headquarters of the foreign ministry this afternoon following consultations with Sharaf. However, as the entire government was not sworn in due to the ambiguity of the status of the minister of antiquities, he did not make it.

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