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Morsi's ouster unlikely to affect Egypt's ties with Iran

By Mahmoud Fouly (Xinhua)

13:56, July 14, 2013

CAIRO, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Although Iran deems the recent popular-backed military ouster of Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi "unacceptable," analysts believe the move is unlikely to affect future relations between Egypt and Iran.

The first official Iranian reaction came five days after Morsi' s removal earlier this month, when foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said on July 8 that "the intervention of the Egyptian armed forces in political affairs is unacceptable and disturbing."

Two day's later, Egypt's foreign ministry labeled the Iranian reaction as "unacceptable interference," adding it was based on Iranian misunderstanding of the Egyptian domestic developments.

Analysts say Iran seems to have reconsidered its position and thought it might not want to base its ties with Egypt on Morsi's issue, which is shown by the recent statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi in which he urged Egyptian political groups to consolidate national unity.

"Egypt's fate should be determined by its own nation and any decision made by the Egyptian people should be respected by all," Salehi told his Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr in a phone call Thursday, adding that "the Islamic republic has always sought and will seek the best relations with Egypt."

Ambassador Mahmoud Farag, Egypt's former charge d'affaires in Tehran, told Xinhua that he does not expect the ouster of Morsi to negatively affect the gradual normalization of the Egyptian- Iranian ties that suffered a three-decade rift.

"I do not think Morsi's removal will affect ties with Iran, which are already stagnant for other reasons including the positions on the Syrian crisis and the ideological differences between Egyptian Sunnis and Iranian Shiites," the ex-diplomat explained.

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 breakthrough" in the tense Egyptian- Iranian ties emerged.

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

Farag said that the relations between the two did not witness such a great development during the time of Morsi and Ahmadinejad except for exchanging diplomatic visits.

Although Iran's newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate leader compared to his predecessor, Farag believes that the fall of an Islamic-oriented regime will still disturb Rouhani.

"Morsi's fall is not in favor of Iran, which is already involved in many issues that make it difficult for Egypt to completely normalize ties with the Islamic republic," Farag added, noting Morsi's removal in itself is not likely to affect the process.

For his part, Tarek al-Sinouti, head of diplomatic department at the state-run Al-Ahram Evening daily newspaper, said that Morsi 's removal may affect the relations between Egypt and Iran " temporarily," but in time they would come back to their prior stage.

"It will not greatly affect their bilateral ties because Iran basically focuses on its interests in the region," Sinouti told Xinhua, adding Morsi's ouster might only leave a temporary effect until things settle down and the vision becomes clearer.

"This can be seen in the first Iranian reaction that showed dissatisfaction and then it went lighter to admit that any decision made by the Egyptian people should be respected," Sinouti added.

Sinouti agreed with Farag that there are already many obstacles in the way of normal ties between Egypt and Iran that have nothing to do with Morsi's overthrow, including the Syrian crisis, the ideological conflict between Sunni Egypt and Shiite Iran as well as the issues Iran has with some Gulf states that have mutual interests with Egypt.

"In my opinion, Islamic orientation of regimes does not affect the relations between states, but only mutual interests do," Sinouti told Xinhua.

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