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News analysis: Egyptian-Iranian ties thaw, but obstacles ahead

English.news.cn   2013-02-06 12:54:58            
 Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt Tuesday for the first trip by an Iranian president in more than 30 years.
 • Ahmadinejad's historic visit itself meant signs of further warmth in bilateral ties.
 • Analysts: there is no quick and easy fix for full restoration of the two nations' diplomatic relations.


CAIRO, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday for the first trip by an Iranian president in more than 30 years.

Although Ahmadinejad came here to attend a summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation that opens Wednesday, his historic visit itself meant signs of further warmth in bilateral ties since Mohamed Morsi was elected Egyptian president last June.

Morsi visited Iran in August last year to attend a Non-Aligned Summit, becoming the first Egyptian president to travel to Tehran since the two countries severed ties after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Their ties further deteriorated after Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, Iran's arch rival.

"Ahmadinejad's visit is a good indicator of development of Egyptian-Iranian relations although it is not a special visit," Sobhi Essaila, a political expert at al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua.

The three-day visit in general showed "an ease in the Egyptian-Iranian ties," he added. Ahmadinejad was given a red-carpet welcome by Morsi at Cairo airport.

However, analysts warned there is no quick and easy fix for full restoration of the two countries' diplomatic relations, given their deep and complex theological and geopolitical differences and interests.

Abdel-Moneim Saeed, a political analyst and the former chief of state-run al-Ahram newspaper, said the theological difference between Shiite Iran and Sunni Egypt is a hard nut to crack as "the powerful Sunni Islamists in Egypt, particularly the ultraconservative Salafists, strictly reject normalizing relations with Iran."

Ahmadinejad indeed received a stiff rebuke from Egypt's most prominent cleric, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of the Sunni world's most prestigious religious institution, Al-Azhar, in their talks dominated by Sunni-Shiite tensions.

El-Tayeb urged the Iranian president to act earnestly to prohibit Shiites' insults of Sunni symbols and to refrain from interfering in Gulf states, particularly Bahrain, where the ruling Sunni minority has faced protests by the Shiite majority.

He also denounced what he described as the "spread of Shiism in Sunni lands," saying such a move was unacceptable.

Ties between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates -- have been strained since Gulf troops rolled into Bahrain in 2011 to help put down Shiite-led protests.

Saeed told Xinhua that Egypt had about 3 million expatriates in the Gulf region who send billions of U.S. dollars in remittances back home every year, which indicated the strategic interests between Egypt and the Gulf states.

"Egypt would not risk its interests with the Gulf states to normalize relations with Iran," he noted.

Saeed's view was echoed by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, who said Tuesday that "Egypt's relations with any state will never be at the expense of the security of other states. Security of the Gulf states is a red line. ... Security of the Gulf is security for Egypt."

Meanwhile, Morsi is certainly reluctant to go too far with Iran and alienate the United States, Egypt's traditional ally, or hurt ties with Israel, with which his government has maintained cooperation.

In addition, Syria is another hurdle that cannot be shunned. Iran supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Egypt has been a leading voice urging his departure.

The Syrian conflict that has protracted for newly two years have killed more than 60,000 people, mostly civilians, according to a UN count. It will be high on the agenda of the upcoming Islamic summit.

Egyptian analysts said, all in all, relations with Iran for now could be better but not the best, and could be improved but not normalized.

By contrast, the Iranian side is more optimistic. "There are serious steps in the right direction to re-establish Iranian-Egyptian ties," Ambassador Mojtaba Amani, head of the Iranian Interests Office in Cairo, told Xinhua in a recent interview.


Iran's president meets Egypt's top cleric to ease ideological tension

CAIRO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- On his first visit to Egypt, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held talks on Tuesday with Egypt's top cleric Ahmed al-Tayyeb, head of al-Azhar Islamic institution, in an attempt to ease the ideological tension between religious leaders of Shiite Iran and Sunni Egypt.

"The points of view between the two sides are greatly close with regards to the issues related to the region and the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad told reporters at a press conference following the meeting, praising "the good relations" between peoples of the two countries throughout history.    Full story

Iranian president pays first visit to Egypt since 1979

CAIRO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt's capital of Cairo on Tuesday, the first visit by an Iranian president to Egypt since 1979.

Ahmadinejad will participate in the upcoming summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation slated for Feb. 6-7, the first one since the Egyptian unrest broke out, also the first one that Egypt has hosted since the establishment of the Organization in 1969.   Full story

Iran, Egypt ties can influence regional, int'l relations: Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that convergence between Tehran and Cairo could change regional and international equations in favor of both countries, Press TV reported.

"If a convergence is formed between Tehran and Cairo over regional and international issues, many equations will be reformed, " Ahmadinejad said before departing Tehran for Egypt on Tuesday to attend the 12th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Full story


Editor: Liu
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