Foreign Affairs Ministry’s official spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid said on Monday that 2016 was the year of Egyptian diplomacy. In an interview with the privately-owned TV channel Al-Hayah, Abou Zeid said that Egypt worked hard in 2014 and 2015 to regain its regional and international power, which bore fruit in 2016.
Abou Zeid said that Egypt has won a non-permanent seat at the UN security council and a seat in the peace and security council in the African Union, which reflects the trust the international community has in Egypt.
The spokesperson also added that Egypt has put its relationship with African countries at the top of its foreign policy priorities, adding that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has visited several African countries this year to enhance bilateral relations across all levels. Abou Ziad further added that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also visited African countries to foster stronger ties.
In the interview the spokesperson touched on a number of issues pertaining to Egypt’s foreign policy including tension with Saudi Arabia, bilateral relations with Ethiopia, and relations with the new US administration.
Abou Zeid said that the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) has not created tension between the two countries. He explained that there are technical surveys being conducted to study the effects of the GERD on Egypt and Ethiopia.
The dam has been controversial in Egypt because of fears of its potential effect on Egypt’s water security. Historically, Egypt and Sudan have inherited the right to the lion’s share of the Nile water from a 1929 treaty imposed by the British.
Abou Zeid said that the technical studies will ensure Egypt and Sudan’s water quota are not affected.
Earlier in May, Ethiopia said that it had completed about 70% of the GERD. Experts have previously told Daily News Egypt that the technical studies will take about 12 months, by the end of which the construction of the dam could be completed.
Also, Ethiopia previously announced that it would not abide by the results of these studies in the construction process, but rather in the operation process.
In response to Ethiopian accusations claiming that Egypt is financially supporting rebel and terrorist groups in Ethiopia, Abou Zaid said that Egypt has repeatedly denied any intervention in the internal affairs of any country, adding that Egypt has requested proofs that reveal its support to these groups but it hasn’t received any.
In 2013, former president Mohamed Morsi held a televised meeting with several politicians in order to discuss the GERD. The meeting caused uproar after some of its members, including the former president, suggested funding Ethiopian resistance movements to create unrest in Ethiopia and using Egypt’s intelligence agencies to sabotage the dam.
Commenting on a Saudi Arabian official’s visit to GERD, Abou Zeid asserted that Egypt respects the foreign policy of other countries and does not intervene in them, adding that each country has the right to pursue their own interests.
The spokesperson also denied there were tensions with Saudi Arabia, emphasising the strong ties between the two countries. He added that they may have different foreign policy priorities, but both sides are constantly communicating.
Despite repeated denial by officials that there is any tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two countries have recently found themselves at odds with one another. Egypt recently voted in favour of a Russian UN resolution on Syria, which upset the Saudis. Saudi Arabia has also suspended oil shipments to Egypt indefinitely.
Furthermore, Abou Zeid said that Egypt is a part of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen fighting Houthi rebels, denying rumours that the government held a meeting with Houthi rebels in Egypt.
Abou Zeid also spoke about Egypt’s recent decision to postpone the UN security council vote on a resolution it had drafted against the construction of Israeli settlements. He said that Egypt had agreed with Palestinian representatives on the wording of the resolution, and that they in turn agreed with the four countries that were filing the resolution to vote in favour of it regardless of a potential veto by the US. Abou Zeid claimed that Egypt would have voted in favour of the resolution regardless of who had sponsored it.
Abou Zeid also said that it maintains good ties with both the Palestinians and the Israelis, meaning that the country benefits from having the trust from both sides of the conflict and can operate as a neutral mediator to find an inclusive solution to the conflict.
He said that Egypt chose to postpone the vote in order to allow the new US administration under president-elect Donald Trump to try and deal with the situation. He added that Egypt seeks to maintain good relations with Trump’s administration.
Despite Egypt’s postponement, the resolution was put to a vote. The Israeli foreign minister summoned the ambassadors of the countries that voted in favour of the resolution. According to CNN, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the foreign ministry to limit ties with countries that had voted in favour of the resolution.