Newly-appointed foreign minister says ‘everything will be re-evaluated’ following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi; in Cairo, security forces raid office of Iranian TV channel.
In his first public comments since becoming Egypt’s top diplomat, Nabil Fahmy said Cairo continues to support the Syrian uprising but that Egypt has no intention of supporting a jihad or holy war in Syria.
“Everything will be re-evaluated,” Fahmy told reporters in Cairo.
Fahmy’s comments signaled a shift from Morsi’s approach. The former president had made supporting the Syrian opposition in its fight against President Bashar Assad a cornerstone of his foreign policy. Cairo also is the official headquarters of the main Western-backed Syrian opposition group.
Just weeks before Morsi was deposed on July 3, a senior presidential aide said authorities would not prevent Egyptians from traveling to Syria to join the rebel cause.
Morsi also attended a rally on June 15 in which hard-line clerics called on Sunni Muslims to join the fight in Syria. Speaking at the rally, Morsi announced he was severing diplomatic ties with Damascus.
Fahmy said Egypt is seeking a political solution to the three-year crisis in Syria, which has killed more than 90,000 people, according to the United Nations.
“Egypt supports the [Syrian] revolution and the Syrian people’s right to live in dignity within the framework of a democratic system and we will work to achieve that goal,” he said.
While in office, Morsi launched an initiative with the aim of finding a regional political solution.
Since Morsi’s ouster, his critics have accused Syrians living in Egypt of participating in the protests calling for him to be reinstated. Television networks critical of Morsi aired allegations that his Muslim Brotherhood backers were paying Syrian refugees to take part in pro-Morsi protests. The arrest of at least six Syrians accused of taking part in violent street clashes only fanned the flames.
After the arrests, Cairo’s new military-backed interim government imposed travel restrictions on Syrians, who for decades were able to enter Egypt without a visa.
The main Syrian opposition coalition has criticized the shift toward those seeking refuge in Egypt from the war, calling on authorities to ensure that “Syrian people living in Egypt, under such dire circumstances, are not used to achieve certain political ends.”
Fahmy also said Egypt is “seriously assessing” its relations with the Syrian regime’s key regional backer Iran. Morsi moved to improve diplomatic ties with Iran when he reached out to Tehran in a bilateral deal to promote tourism and improve relations between the two countries.
“We are neither enemies nor allies with anybody,” Fahmy said of Cairo’s ties with other nations.
The foreign minister said Egypt is also looking at its relationship with Ethiopia and Turkey. Some Brotherhood officials have close business ties with Turkey and the country’s prime minister, wary of the pro-secular Turkish military’s intervention in politics, has condemned Morsi’s ouster as “unacceptable.”
Separately, the ministry’s spokesman Badr Abdel-Aaty said Egypt is “very concerned” that Ethiopia has not replied to requests to take part in technical consultations in Cairo over its construction of a Nile dam. The project could leave Egypt with a dangerous water shortage. Before his ouster, Morsi had vowed “all options are open” in dealing with the dam’s construction.
Also on Saturday, Egyptian security forces raided the office of the Iranian Al Alam Arabic language satellite channel in Cairo and detained its director, the outlet reported on Saturday.
“The security forces also seized equipment and devices from the channel without giving any explanation for these actions,” Al Alam said on its website.
A security source confirmed their account and said the raid was conducted because the channel lacked a license. The incident signaled a return to cooler relations between the two Middle Eastern powers after an attempt at rapprochement under deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.