Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said that he sees no hindrance to renewing ties with Egypt that have been severed for decades, and noted that a meeting earlier in New York between the two countries’ foreign ministers could serve as the first step on that path.
Raisi spoke at a press briefing Wednesday to round off his attendance at the United Nations General Assembly before heading back to Iran.
“Iran does not see any obstacle in establishing relations with Egypt, and this issue has been announced to the Egyptian side as well,” he told reporters, according to a English-language statement from the official presidency website.
“Today’s meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries can also be a chapter to start and revive relations between the two countries,” Raisi continued.
“In order to strengthen relations with neighboring… and Muslim countries, we will warmly shake the hand of any country that wants to cooperate with us.”
Earlier, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry hosted his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, on the sidelines of the UN’s 78th annual general meeting.
با برادرم سامحالشکری وزیر امورخارجه مصر در نیویورک ملاقات شد..
مذاکره در باب مسائل مورد علاقه دوجانبه مثبت و ثمربخش بود.
تاکید کردیم با توجه به سوابق تمدنی، تاریخی و فرهنگی دو کشور تقویت روابط نه تنها تأمین کننده منافع مشترک است، بلکه دارای آثار مثبت منطقهای خواهد بود. pic.twitter.com/Smci6QoR3m
— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) September 21, 2023
Egypt under Anwar Sadat cut ties to Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Sadat had been a close friend to the deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, welcomed him to Egypt just before his death and hosted his state funeral in 1980. The shah’s remains are entombed at Cairo’s Al-Rifai Mosque. Egypt’s peace deal with Israel also angered Iran’s theocratic government, which views the Jewish state as its top regional enemy.
After the 2011 Arab Spring and the election of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood, relations warmed with Iran. However, a 2013 military overthrow ousted Morsi and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took power, immediately cooling the outreach to Tehran.
Earlier this year Iran’s supreme leader said he’d “welcome” the restoration of full diplomatic ties with Egypt.
There have been growing signs of Egypt and Iran potentially restoring ties, particularly as Saudi Arabia and Iran reached a détente in March with Chinese mediation after years of tensions. Cairo relies on Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Gulf Arab states for economic support.
At his press conference Wednesday, Raisi remarked on other regional developments including efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which he called a “stab in the back” for the Palestinians.
He also commented on efforts to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it obtaining a weapon. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action unraveled after the Trump administration withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran, which then broke its own commitments to the pact and ramped up its nuclear activities.
“Iran insists that the United States and European countries return to their agreement with Iran and fulfill their commitments,” Raisi said. “The fact that Iran at some point increased the speed of its enrichment was due to the fact that the parties to the agreement with Iran did not fulfill their obligations.”
“The Islamic Republic of Iran never left the negotiation table, but unfortunately, some western countries and the United States left the negotiation table due to miscalculations and being interested in unrest in Iran,” he said, referring to anti-government protests in his country.
“If the Americans are ready to fulfill their commitments, the ground will be provided for the progress of interactions and reaching a good agreement,” he said.