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News Analysis: Coming Iranian president likely to continue normalizing ties with Egypt: analysts


08:51, June 14, 2013

CAIRO, June 13 (Xinhua) -- As the countdown for Iran's presidential election is ticking, Egyptian political experts expect the coming Iranian leadership to continue normalizing ties with Egypt after a three-decade-old rift amid difficulties.

Ties between Egypt and Iran were cut off after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But after Egyptians in early 2011 ousted Hosni Mubarak, a relief in the tense Egyptian-Iranian ties emerged.

The icy bilateral relations started to thaw after Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Morsi paid his first visit to Tehran last August to attend the Non-aligned Movements Summit, which was followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Cairo in February to attend an Islamic conference.

"I think the next Iranian president will do his best to have good relations with Egypt because the two countries are very important for each other as regional powers," Tarek al-Sinouti, head of diplomatic department at the state-run Al-Ahram Evening daily newspaper, told Xinhua.

Sinouti believes that the winner of the Iranian election, to be held on Friday, will maintain an encouraging approach toward Egypt "especially in the economic field."

"In early April, an Iranian tourist group visited Egypt for the first time in decades, and last week, another Iranian group visited the country, which means that the Egypt-Iran ties are going faster toward normalization," Sinouti said.


However, Mahmoud Farag, Egypt's former charge d'affaires in Tehran, does not expect much progress in the ties between the two states due to their conflicting positions on a number of regional issues, including the Syrian crisis.

Iran supported Egypt's "uprising" against Mubarak, yet it rejects the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Egypt said "there is no place for the government of Assad in new Syria."

"I do not think Egypt is currently prepared for broad relations with Iran because of the Syrian conflict and the Egyptian interests with the Gulf states that have issues with Iran," said Farag, who expects Iran's new leadership to focus more on ties with the West, particularly the United States, to boost its ailing economy.

"Iran suffers an inflation rate of about 30 percent and an unemployment rate of over 25 percent, so the coming president would likely to focus on improving ties with the West to relieve sanctions on Iran," Farag explained.

The former diplomat said that Iranians wanted to restore relations with Egypt without compromises, disregarding Egypt's interests with Gulf states and its position on Syria.

Still, Farag sees the recent visits of Iranian tourists to Egypt as "a relevantly positive step" in bilateral ties, noting that the Iranian tourists "have been welcomed in Egypt."

"In the end, the next president will just do as Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tells him," Farag said, adding that Khamenei is the "real ruler" of Iran.


Nearly 50.5 million Iranians are eligible to vote in Friday's polls. Six candidates will compete for succeeding outgoing Ahmadinejad, including a sole centrist, four conservatives and a hardliner.

Saeed al-Lawindi, expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, sees the Iranian election as "a very important event," yet he does not expect much improvement in Iran's ties with Egypt even if the next leader attempts to enhance them.

"Before coming to power, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood urged normalizing ties with Iran as a fellow Islamic state, but now they are reluctant for political reasons just like Mubarak," Lawindi said.

"Egypt is more keen on maintaining relations with the United States and Israel rather than with Iran," Lawindi said, noting that Iran has already attempted to normalize ties with Egypt but the latter did not show equal enthusiasm.

The expert said that the Egyptian and the Iranian peoples enjoy better relations as reflected in the reception of the first Iranian tourists in Egypt, "but politically, the ties are not moving fast enough."

"Egypt's reluctant ties with Iran are unjustifiable, an attitude that can be seen only as keenness to please the United States and Israel," Lawindi said.

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