Egypt hopes to gain economic and political momentum for itself and the region through ongoing partnership with the EU and Mediterranean cooperation within the Barcelona Process. The Association Agreement between the EU and Egypt is expected to enter into force soon. It has already been ratified by the majority of the EU member states (also including Germany) and the section on trade relations has already come into provisional effect, and of course, this is a significant accomplishment, given the diversity of political opinion among EU member states.
Relations with neighbouring Arab countries
Since Egypt's return to the Arab League in 1990, Cairo has once again become the seat - both physically and politically -- of the Pan-Arab organization. Amr Moussa, who served as Egypt's Foreign Minister for many years, became the Arab League's new Secretary-General in March 2001. Since emerging from its isolation in the Arab bloc following its peace accord with Israel in 1979, Egypt has succeeded under President Mubarak in largely regaining its leadership role. Within the Arab League, Egypt supports the reform efforts initiated by Amr Moussa aimed at making the organization more effective and better able to take action on a variety of issues.
Relations with Israel
Egypt has had a peace agreement with the neighboring State of Israel since 1979. It has put its political weight behind establishing a durable peace since this process began and has used the trust placed in it by both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to overcome major obstacles. Its political relations with Israel are shaped by developments in the Middle East peace process, however. Since the second Intifada broke out in September 2000, relations with Israel have been under considerable strain, and have not gotten better in the recent months. The Egyptian Government recalled its Ambassador to Tel Aviv back in November 2000 and the post has been vacant since, leaving a foreboding feeling for the future.
Relations with the U.S.A.
Egypt maintains a very critical strategic partnership with the United States of America. This does not preclude differences of opinion on major foreign-policy questions, e.g. On Iraq, but of course, which countries did not question America's policy on Iraq? America particularly values Egypt's support in the fight against international terrorism, however, and not just since 11 September 2001, and as we know, this is the focus of the second Bush administration.
In the context of the Middle East peace process and the U.S.A.'s policy on Iraq, Egypt seeks to strike a balance between solidarity with Arab countries and awareness of critical public opinion towards the U.S.A. On the one hand and loyalty to its chief strategic ally on the other, which means so much to it from an economic standpoint.
Aid is central to Washington's relationship with Cairo. The U.S. has provided Egypt with $1.3 billion a year in military aid since 1979, and an average of $815 million a year in economic assistance. All told, Egypt has received over $50 billion in U.S. largesse since 1975. (www.csmonitor.com)
The money is seen as bolstering Egypt's stability in the region and in the world at large, support for U.S. policies in the region, for U.S. access to the Suez Canal, and peace with Israel. But some critics question the aid's effectiveness in spurring economic and democratic development in the Arab world's most populous country - an obviously higher U.S. priority after Sept. 11, 2001.
Aid offers an easy way out for Egypt to avoid reform," said Edward Walker, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1998 in a Christian Science Monitor interview. "They use the money to support antiquated programs and to resist reforms." (www.csmonitor.com)
Egypt's economy is deeply troubled today, more than ever in recent history. Unemployment has climbed astronomically to 25%, foreign investment last year dropped to a 20-year low, and until recently the currency was losing value on a weekly basis. Rather than helping, American aid is "depressing the need for reform," according to former Ambassador Walker in the Christian Science Monitor. (www.csmonitor.com)
Meanwhile, the Mubarak in Egypt regime is inching slowly towards political reform and democratic pluralism at a pace so slow that many question the sincerity of the government's pro-democracy rhetoric. This obviously does not thrill the United States, which has given so much money to Egypt.
In the past, issues like democracy and economic reform were of secondary concern to policymakers looking to shore up a friendly government. Support for Egypt jumped after it made peace with Israel in 1979.
However, U.S. policy has changed since 19 hijackers demonstrated that bolstering stable, pro-American, but undemocratic regimes in the Middle East affected America's security. The ringleader and four of the 9/11 hijackers were Egyptian, after all. This did not, however, truly affect Egyptian/U.S. policy making towards terrorism.
In 2002, the U.S. National Security Strategy articulated a new aid doctrine, saying that money should go to "countries whose governments rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom." And of course, Egypt maintains that status by fighting terrorism.
Colin Powell's Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is refocusing funding priorities in the Middle East - including those at USAID's 300 person Cairo office - on economic reform, democracy, education, and women's issues, which is a welcome departure from terrorism-based policy.
Relations with African countries
In addition to efforts to strengthen Pan-African structures, major developments in the Horn of Africa are of particular concern to Egypt. Relations with Sudan - after years of conflict -- have recently been returning to normal, as evidenced by President Mubarak's state visit to Khartoum in June 2003 and the meeting of the joint high commission there in August 2003, chaired by Prime Minister Atef Ebeid.
Following its initial opposition, Egypt now supports peace efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Machakos framework agreement of July 2002. (www.washingtonpost.com) This provides for a referendum to be held six and a half years following the conclusion of the peace agreement, giving the southern Sudanese people the option of founding their own state. Together with the Arab League, Egypt is planning reconstruction measures for southern Sudan, which was badly damaged by the civil war. Nevertheless, it is keeping a close watch on proposals by other Nile Basin countries for reapportioning the water quotas of 1929. (www.nytimes.com)
Historical Progression of Egypt/Arab/U.S./EU relations, with focus on the Suez Canal and its negotiations
In the fall of 1948, the UN Security Council called on Israel and the Arab states to negotiate peace through armistice agreements. Egypt agreed, but only after Israel had routed its vaunted army and driven to El Arish in the Sinai. At that time, the British were ready to defend Egypt under a unique Anglo-Egyptian treaty. Rather than accept the humiliation of British assistance, however, the Egyptians met the Israelis at Rhodes instead.
UN mediator Ralph Bunche brought them together at the conference table and was later honored with a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. He warned that any delegation that walked out of the negotiations would be blamed for their breakdown, and this proved a powerful argument.
By the summer of 1949, optimistic armistice agreements had been negotiated between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Iraq, which had also fought against Israel, refused to follow suit. Bunche succeeded at Rhodes because he insisted on direct bilateral talks between Israel and each Arab state, including, of course, and most importantly, Egypt.
Meanwhile, on December 11, 1948, the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on the parties to negotiate peace and armistice and creating a Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC), which consisted of the United States, France and Turkey. All Arab delegations, including Egypt, voted against it.
After 1949, the Arabs, led by Egypt again, insisted that Israel accept the borders in the 1947 partition resolution and repatriate the Palestinian refugees before they would negotiate an end to the war they had initiated. This was a whole new approach that they would use after subsequent defeats: the doctrine of the limited-liability war. Under this theory, an aggressor may reject a compromise settlement and gamble on war to win everything in the comfortable knowledge that, even if he fails, he may insist on reinstating the status quo before; quite flies in the face of historical precedent.
Egypt had maintained its state of belligerency with Israel after the famed armistice agreement was signed. The first manifestation of this was the much-hyped closing of the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. On August 9, 1949, the UN Mixed Armistice Commission upheld Israel's complaint that Egypt was illegally blocking the critical canal. UN negotiator Ralph Bunche declared: "There should be free movement for legitimate shipping and no vestiges of the wartime blockade should be allowed to remain, as they are inconsistent with both the letter and the spirit of the armistice agreements."
On September 1, 1951, the Security Council flat-out ordered Egypt to open the Canal to Israeli shipping. Egypt steadfastly refused to comply.…