Middle East

Iran, Egypt move to restore diplomatic relations

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (C) briefs the press upon his arrival to attend a preparation meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah on August 13, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

CAIRO: Iran and Egypt are moving toward restoring diplomatic ties which were severed more than three decades ago, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in an interview published Tuesday.

Salehi said in comments reported in Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper that Tehran was keen on establishing relations of “friendship and brotherhood” with Cairo.

“Egypt is the cornerstone of the region and has a special stature in the Arab and Muslim countries ... and we want relations of friendship and brotherhood with it,” Salehi said, adding that Tehran hoped to restore “normal” relations with Cairo. “We will pursue this path and restoration of relations depends only on protocol measures.”

Salehi said Egypt’s revolution “restored Egypt to its natural place and opened a new chapter in its foreign policy and international relations.”

He added that Iran welcomed Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi attending a Non-Aligned Movement summit later this month in Tehran.

A source at the Egyptian presidency said Mursi will take part in the Aug. 30 summit at which the NAM presidency will be passed from Egypt to Iran.

Tehran severed ties with Cairo in 1980, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, to protest against Egypt and Israel agreeing on their 1979 peace treaty.

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak regarded Iran as a destabilizing factor in the Middle East.

Last week at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Mecca, Mursi proposed the formation of a committee grouping Egypt with key players Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to try to find a settlement to the conflict in Syria.

On Syria and Saudi relations, Salehi said he was optimistic about the future of the Islamic Ummah “in spite of some developments and events and crises in the Middle East and North Africa region.”

“And our relations with Saudi Arabia are well and good, and the two countries have a sincere desire to develop and improve these relations, because they are two influential countries, and good relations will be reflected on other states in the region.”

He dismissed accusations about Iranian attempts to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, saying they were “empty and ridiculous.”

But, he said Iran opposed the suspension of Syria from the Mecca conference, adding that it contradicted “the covenant of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.”

“Internal dialogue is the only way to solve the crisis in Syria, and we call for more serious, comprehensive dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition groups that enjoy popular support inside Syria. We reject any military intervention in Syria ... and we oppose international sanctions that are aimed at punishing the Syrian people,” the foreign minister said.

Salehi said Bashar Assad should retain the presidency until polls in 2014, when the Syrian people will elect their leader.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 22, 2012, on page 9.

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