Egypt could bypass the United States and seek other partners in the international community with whom to forge economic, and military, relationships, the Egyptian foreign minister said Saturday, ahead of a visit to the region by US Secretary of State John Kerry, beginning Sunday.
In an interview with Reuters, Nabil Fahmy chose the word “turbulent” to describe the current state of relations between Washington and Cairo, an allusion to the Obama administration’s open displeasure with the ouster in July of the country’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
He was quoted as saying that, looking ahead in the wake of the US’s decision to scale back military aid to Egypt, his government had “multiple choices, multiple options” for new partnerships.
Despite the fact that he is a former Egyptian ambassador in Washington, Fahmy’s first major state visit as foreign minister in September was to Russia, with which Egypt has shared interests. The Soviet Union was Cairo’s chief backer for much of the second half of the twentieth century.
Last week, the London Times reported that Russia has been seeking to upgrade its military ties with Egypt in an effort to augment its limited access to the Mediterranean and bolster its navy’s presence in the region.
An Egyptian diplomatic delegation was in Moscow last weekend for meetings with Russian officials. According to the Times, the purpose of the trip was to lay the groundwork for a visit to Cairo by Putin.
On October 19, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Egypt was looking to Russia to supply it with arms after the US froze much of its military aid in protest over Morsi’s ouster.
Fahmy, however, sought to dispel reports that his country had found a new patron in Moscow, thus shuffling off an alliance with Washington that has been in place since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
His meeting Sunday with his American counterpart would be “a frank, honest dialogue between friends,” Reuters quoted Fahmy as saying. “We will work in that constructive fashion to develop the relationship but there is no question in our mind that we will fulfill our national security needs as they are required from whatever source we need.”
He stressed that Cairo was not attempting to reprise its former relationship with the Soviet Union, dismissing such notions as springing from a misguided “Cold War mentality.” Rather, he asserted, “The Egyptian government is committed to diversifying its relationship[s]” by finding “10, 20, 30 new partners,” of whom Moscow would be one.
Israel has reportedly argued “directly and bluntly” with the Obama administration against cutting aid to Egypt, telling Washington it was making “a strategic error” in reducing financial assistance to Cairo.
During his trip to the region, Kerry, the US secretary of state, is also expected to focus on shoring up the troubled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and allaying the concerns of other regional partners – most notably Saudi Arabia – over the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic efforts vis-à-vis Syria and Iran.