Cooperation between Iran and Egypt “will create a strategic balance in the region” according to Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s new president-elect.
In a statement released by the Iranian Fars news agency, Mohamed Morsi said that he looks forward to forging closer ties with the Iran, which is currently under fire from the US and Israel over its nuclear program.Morsi made the statement just hours before he was announced president and the Iranian state news agency published them on Monday, Morsi’s first day as President-elect. Egyptian-Iranian relations are expected to drastically change.
The countries had severed diplomatic ties in 1980. An Iranian ambassador to Egypt was only appointed after the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi’s stance on Iran just a few hours before he became president must certainly make Israel, which has been pressuring the US to confront Iran, uncomfortable.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he respected the results of the elections the cover of Israel’s most widely read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, led with a headline on Monday that read “Darkness in Egypt” in reaction to Morsi’s win.
Some Israeli officials were even less optimistic. Israeli parliamentarian Ben Eliezer said last week that he fears Islamist Egypt is becoming more “Israel-hating”.
In his first speech Sunday night, Morsi seemed to be trying to reassure Israel when he said that Egypt will be respecting all of its international treaties and accords, key among them the Camp David accords signed between the two countries in 1978. In Gaza, reactions to Morsi’s victory were overwhelmingly positive.
These hopes hinge on the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliation with the Islamic Popular Resistance Movement, Hamas, which welcomed the news of his victory with celebrations in cities across Gaza. Hamas is considered a “terrorist” organisation by both Israel and the US and actively opposes the blockade of Gaza, one of the high points of cooperation between Egypt and Israel.
Israel and Egypt’s enforcement of the blockade entered its fifth year this June. In regards to Egypt’s relationship to Israel, Morsi told the Fars news agency “our policy towards Israel will be a policy based on equality since we are not weaker…we will discuss the issue of the Palestinians’ rights …since this is highly important”.
The US has been in the background of all of this influencing, if not dictating, Egyptian relations with both countries. The United States has declared support for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to The Washington Times, although questions remain over how long US support will last if the Brotherhood starts to change Egypt’s “strategic” policy towards Israel.
US President, Barack Obama congratulated President-elect Mohamed Morsi over his victory in Egypt’s presidential elections on Sunday, adding that he looks forward to working together with Morsi for the sake of the “shared interests between Egypt and the United States.”
Not only does Morsi inherit a barrage of challenges on the domestic level, he will also have to make tough decisions regarding Egypt’s future relationship with the US and the region. The “shared interests” of the US and Egypt which Obama referred to, are going to be tough to define in the future, they largely depend on how the Muslim Brotherhood decides to deal with the Palestinian issue.