We cannot afford to fail: Fahmy

Joel Gulhane
6 Min Read
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (AFP Photo)
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (AFP Photo)
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy (AFP Photo)

Nabil Fahmy said on Sunday the interim government “cannot afford to fail,” adding that the government’s plans are ambitious but stressed that it has a responsibility to “correct things that have gone wrong last year and in years before.”

The interim minister of foreign affairs hosted foreign journalists at the ministry for a question and answer session on Sunday, the second in as many days. Fahmy told reporters: “this is an interim government with a historic mandate, we don’t have time but we have a responsibility to help Egypt reconcile, to help Egypt lay down the foundations by way of democratic institutions that will carry us into the next generation as a fully mature democratic state.”

Fahmy stressed the need for reconciliation saying: “to do that we need to diffuse the security situation, we need non-violence and we need tangible evidence that there is seriousness to that kind of statement.”

Regarding foreign policy, Fahmy said he has instructed different departments of the ministry “to review our policies with every single country in the world… with a view of defining what the situation is, what our interests are and how we can achieve those interests.”

Fahmy reiterated that he had ordered a restructuring of the ministry and its three main goals, which he revealed in July. He said that over the next nine months the goals are, firstly: “explain the revolution properly and achieve support for it.” The second goal Fahmy outlined is “refocusing Egypt, replacing its centre of gravity where it should be, which is in Africa and the Arab world.”

He added: “we are not going to go around asking others to do what we are doing but we are going to try to provide a model for what we can do in the region and use that model as an example.”

The third goal is to: “build for the future,” he said, explaining that he ordered the appointment of an assistant minister for neighbouring states and also set up a “number of task forces to help us look forward.” One such taskforce is charged with preparing “a study for what the Middle East and Africa will look like in 2030.” From this he intends for the ministry to use this to form foreign policy with the future in mind.

The Daily News Egypt asked Fahmy to what extent Egypt would allow foreign mediation in the current crisis. He described the visits by officials such as EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, US Deputy Secretary William Burns and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle “not as mediation but as good offices”. He continued: “Egypt is important to many countries because of the ramifications of what happens in the Middle East as a whole.”

The minister said there is an “open door-policy” for foreign visitors and “if these visitors have the facilities to convey messages on their behalf, if they have ideas that are well received on one side or the other that is fine with us, but the actual process of reconciliation has to be Egyptian.”

The DNE also asked the minister how he explains the deaths of people in the streets of Cairo to foreign diplomats. Fahmy replied: “I explain it very honestly. The only way for the tragedies to end … is for violence to end.” He pointed to increased violence in the Sinai and around the country and highlighted an incident of an explosion outside a security directorate in Mansoura.

“My explanation is quite clear,” continued Fahmy, “let’s have a renunciation of violence on the part of the [Muslim] Brotherhood and let’s reduce the potential for violence… and let’s have a dialogue.”

“The first step toward bringing people together is to be honest with each other,” said Fahmy. He pointed to a recent comment made by Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Al-Beltagy, who said the violence in Sinai could stop in return for the release of some detainees.

Fahmy said of Al-Beltagy’s comment: “that is a clear reflection that there is a relationship between the terrorism in the Sinai whatever demonstrations exist here [Cairo].” He added: “you cannot have reconciliation if you deny the problem. So let’s address the problem of violence and terrorism and the political problem will also be addressed.”

On the issue of visa regulations for Syrian refugees, Fahmy said the decision to change visa regulations was “because of the security concerns here [Egypt]. This is not a political decision against Syria or other countries and these measures will be temporary.”

He added that there has been of policy towards Syria saying: “we will not promote jihad in Syria by Egyptians.”  He also urged all refugees in Egypt to not get involved with Egyptian politics.

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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane