No drastic, immediate change in Egypt’s foreign relations, say analysts

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Egypt’s foreign relations, particularly with the US and Israel, came into question after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak, considered an ally of the West.

Analysts, however, speculate that there would be no major, immediate change in Egypt’s relations with these two countries, especially after the army announced that it would respect the Camp David Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel.

Mubarak handed over power to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after he stepped down, following an almost 30-year rule.

“The only significant difference is that Israeli and US leaders will treat Egypt with respect, as an equal state, without any sense of superiority,” political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Daily News Egypt.

Abdel-Aleem Mohamed, political analyst at Al-Ahram Center, agreed, but noted that minor changes would occur.

“In the next two or three years, Egypt might start reconsidering the number of troops it has deployed in Sinai according to the Camp David Treaty and the closure of the Rafah border [only crossing to Gaza not controlled by Israel],” Mohamed said.

According to the treaty Egypt signed with Israel in the US in 1979, no more than one division of Egyptian armed forces is allowed to be stationed within an area lying approximately 50 km east of the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal.

This issue has long been criticized by opposition groups and activists.

“Egypt will also take a stronger stance against Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will play a more positive role supporting the Palestinian cause,” Mohamed added.

Egypt and Israel have maintained a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took control of it in 2007. This brought Egypt under harsh regional and international criticism.

Egypt intermittently opens the Rafah border crossing, the only gateway to Gaza that bypasses Israel, to allow medical and humanitarian aid and limited movement of citizens.

Emad Gad, a political analyst for Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that Mubarak’s regime used to support Israel’s regional interests, while Israel and the US guaranteed not to put too much pressure on Mubarak to implement principles of human rights and democracy.

The United States has given Egypt an average of $2 billion annually since 1979, a sum of which is military aid, according to the Congressional Research Service. The combined total makes Egypt the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, according to Reuters.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Egypt in March, in a bid to encourage the Egyptian people to hold on to the ideals of democratic reforms that started the revolution, and prevent it from being dominated by extremists.

Clinton unveiled details of an economic support package aimed at creating jobs and spurring foreign investment, in addition to an already announced $150 million being redirected to support the transition and the financial sector.

The Muslim Brotherhood

US and Israeli officials have voiced concerns regarding the Brotherhood dominating the political arena and compromising their interests in the region.

US intelligence officials discussed the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and the prospects of them reaching power in a meeting with US senators in February, according to AFP.

In an Israeli opinion poll, 65 percent of respondents said that Mubarak’s removal would be dangerous for Israel, according to the Saudi daily, Asharq Al-Awsat.

Analysts have also expressed fear that the Brotherhood might in fact dominate parliamentary elections after 77.8 percent of Egyptians voted “yes” to constitutional amendments on March 19. The Brotherhood advocated a “yes” vote and were accused, along with Islamists groups, of using a religious rhetoric in their campaign.

A “no” vote would have delayed parliamentary elections, now due in September. This date is expected to give leverage to the well organized Muslim Brotherhood against the other frail, unprepared opposition groups, especially the new ones.

Once Egypt turns into a democratic, civil state following this transitional period, Gad said it will strengthen its foreign relations, especially with the US.

“However all indications show that its wide cooperation with Israel over economic and regional issues will take a step backwards as Egypt regains its role in the region,” he added.

Regarding Egyptian-Iranian relations, Gad said that they will probably remain tense in the future, unless the Muslim Brotherhood takes over political power.

“The Brotherhood would probably find many common policies and interests with Iran which would strengthen the relations,” he explained.

Nile Basin countries

Analysts have blamed the former regime for the fallout between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries. They are, however, optimistic that Egypt can protect its lion share of the Nile water in the near future.

“Egypt’s relations with the Africa countries deteriorated under the reign of Amr Moussa as foreign Minister and later Ahmed Aboul Gheit who treated the African countries with a sense of superiority,” Abdel Fattah said.

“This defies Egypt’s previous diplomacy which considered Egypt a part of Africa and looked up to Africa as an essential part of the liberation movements around the world,” he added.

Burundi became the sixth Nile Basin country to sign an agreement creating the Nile Basin Commission, a body that will scrap Egypt’s veto rights on upstream projects and the 90 percent control provision granted to Egypt and Sudan over the Nile water.

“Egypt is capable of regaining these relations through dialogue, providing educational scholarships, investments and many other things,” Abdel Fattah said.

Egypt’s population of 80 million depends on the Nile for 90 percent of its water needs, according to AFP. Cairo maintains that, even by the favorable terms of current agreements, its water needs cannot be met by the Nile alone after 2017.




Analysts have blamed the former regime for the fallout between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries. They are, however, optimistic that Egypt can protect its lion share of the Nile water in the near future.


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