Thursday, 17 October 2013

Egypt: Foreign minister says relations with the US now in turmoil

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy was quoted as telling Al-Ahram that relations with the US are now in turmoil and the entire Middle East could suffer. He was speaking after the US Administration delivered a small rap across Egypt's knuckles for its undemocratic governance by suspending some military aid. However minimal the material effect of the suspension of some arms deliveries will be, there is no doubting that Egypt has felt the slight. Foreign ministers in the Arab world have seldom made foreign policy, which has been the preserve of the president or ruler. However, successive foreign ministers in the post-Hosni Mubarak era have demonstrated that they can be more than mere mouthpieces for their leaders. Fahmy is articulating the new mood in Egypt, one far more critical and hostile to the West, while rather more craven - for now - towards its new backers Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
Fahmy told the newspaper that Egypt had been depending for too long on US aid and that Washington should not take Egypt's support for its actions for granted. "We are now in a delicate state reflecting the turmoil in the relationship and anyone who says otherwise is not speaking honestly," he said. He said that the roots of the problems extend far beyond the current spat over aid suspension. "The truth is that the problem goes back much earlier, and is caused by the dependence of Egypt on the US aid for 30 years. (The aid) made us choose the easy option and not diversify our options."
There has been a suggestion that Egypt might turn to Russia for arms purchases - but such a move would be more political than strategic. Few expect Egypt to make the kind of break with Washington that it made with Moscow and the-then Soviet Union in 1973. One relic of the old relationship with the Eastern bloc is the Mig 21 fighter, used still to train Egyptian pilots. Their continued use came to light when one crashed near Luxor. For all the bluster, the military is enjoying the support of the US in confronting Islamist militants in the Sinai.
For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.
© 2013 Menas Associates

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