CAIRO: Egypt and Iran continued working on re-establishing diplomatic ties Thursday as President Hosni Mubarak met Ali Akbr Nataq Nuri, senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and Hosain Ragby, Iranian Interests Section head Thursday.
The previous day, Mubarak hosted Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel on a three-day visit, during which he will also visit Sudan. They are reported to have discussed the situation in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as the restoration of diplomatic ties and both countries’ nuclear programs. Mubarak said in an interview after the meeting that he hoped Iran’s nuclear issue would be resolved through diplomatic means and – just weeks after the visit of Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani – strongly refuted any connection between Egypt and Iran’s nuclear programs. Haddad-Adel told reporters afterwards that, “My current visit to Egypt is an indication of improvement of Iran-Egypt ties. “Maybe some people think the US is putting pressure to stop the return of relations between Egypt and Iran, he continued, “but President Mubarak has said he does not accept any pressure from the US and that his positions are based on Egypt’s interests. His announcement echoes the words of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki who on Monday said Egypt and Iran were on the verge of the full restoration of diplomatic ties. The visit follows talks held on Sunday between Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and top Iranian diplomat Ali Asghar Mohammadi, and is part of a thawing in relations between Egypt and Iran, which were severed in 1979 after Egypt provided asylum for deposed Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and recognized Israel. Spokesman for the foreign ministry Hossam Zaki told Daily News Egypt after Sunday’s meeting that, “We hope that we will be able to push relations forward, but we are not talking about any particular time frame. He added that Egypt and Iran had agreed to hold more frequent and elaborate discussions in the future.Journalist and analyst Khalil Al-Anani previously told Daily News Egypt that if Egypt wanted to maintain a prominent role in the Middle East it would need to restore full relations with Iran.”Iran is a very vital player, and if we want to keep our position in the region we will have to engage with it, he said.Al-Anani said that relations with the Islamic Republic had been non-existent largely due to Egypt’s relationship with the US, adding that Egypt could act as a possible mediator between the two countries should Egypt and Iran restore relations.Researcher at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, Emad Gad, disagrees.Gad argues that Iran views Egypt as a competitor and says that differences with Iran over its involvement in Lebanon and Palestine, as well as its hostile stance toward the Gulf, would first need to be resolved in order for relations to improve significantly.He added that there are also differing positions within Iran on the issue of restoring ties with Egypt.”We hear mixed messages from Iran, he said. “Sometimes they make friendly speeches, sometimes they speak very strongly against Egypt. Many Iranians see Egypt as a strategic ally with the US, and oppose its positions in Lebanon and on the Palestinian issue. It will be difficult to resume relations in the near future. Gad’s colleague at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Nabil Abdel Fattah, however, believes that restoring relations with Iran is in Egypt’s interest.”We should have good relations with all regional powers, he told Daily News Egypt, “whether it be Turkey, Saudi or Iran. Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit has said that a resumption of ties could only take place if Iran takes down a mural of Khaled El-Islambouli, who assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and renames a street that was named after him.