A general view shows construction activity on the Grand Renaissance dam in Guba Woreda, Benishangul Gumuz region in this March 16, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/Files
CAIRO – 11 January 2018: “Egypt is handling the Renaissance Dam crisis with Ethiopia with trust and by assuming good intentions,” Mohamed Megahed Al-Zayyat, member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs and advisor for the National Center for Middle Eastern Studies, said to Egypt Today during an interview on Wednesday.
“Egypt has to strengthen its ties with Africa to increase its influence on African countries,” Zayyat explained. “I believe it is imperative to increase the size of Egyptian investments and Egyptian influence in Africa in the coming period.”
Al-Zayyat tackled many topics during the interview of which came Egyptian-American relations in terms of what to expect post-Jerusalem decision. On the matter of Egyptian-American relations, Al-Zayyat explained that Egypt’s stance is “nonnegotiable”.
The entire text of the interview is included below.
To begin with, how do you perceive Egypt’s manner in handling the Renaissance Dam crisis?
Egypt is handling the matter by assuming the Ethiopian side’s good intentions and by continuously affirming their trust in Ethiopia. However, Egypt is also being assertive about the fact that water is a matter of life and death for Egypt, or, in other words, that Egypt will not relinquish its rightful share in the water of the Nile. Besides, Egypt has already started to act internationally on the issue, the matter which reinforces its situation and increases the support of the international community of its case.
What can you tell us of the Egyptian-African relations in the coming period?
Relations with African countries have to be strengthened in the coming period, while political and economic cooperation have to be boosted. I believe it is imperative to increase the size of Egyptian investments and Egyptian influence in Africa in the coming period. Right now Egypt is working on this through constantly arranging meetings with officials of African countries.
How do you view the growing power of Iran and Turkey in the region, especially that they are currently working on increasing that power?
Arab countries have to work on increasing their military cooperation and coordination, in addition to their presence in the Red Sea to secure it and to curb Iranian powers that are trying to deeply infiltrate Yemen, Syria and Iraq; Turkish activities in the region also need to be addressed in a similar manner. A comprehensive strategy must thus be devised in order to secure the Arab national security from any such threatening interference, and Egypt is capable of standing up for the region owing to its central and vital role in the Arab world.
What is the role that Egypt can play to counteract such interference?
Egypt is a balancing force in the Middle East; it can assume a pivotal role and can create equilibrium in the region. Egypt is now working on creating such equilibrium by seeking a final solution for the Syrian situation through preserving the Syrian army while rebuilding the country. Egypt is not only seeking to end the division inside Syria, but is also exerting efforts to establish stability in Iraq, to support Libyan state apparatuses and advocate for a peaceful resolution, and finally, to sponsor the Palestinian reconciliation. Egypt, therefore, has a functional role in the Arab national security, and other Arab countries ought to assist Egypt in this area.
Do you think that the Syrian crisis can have serious implications on Egypt’s national security?
Yes, the situation in Syria has huge implications on Egypt indeed, and this is why Egypt is positively interfering and attempting to unite all the different factions. Plus, the impact of those who are returning from Syria is a grave one, and Egypt is confronting them with all its might and power. I see, thus, that Egypt’s role in Syria is one that builds up because Egypt is exerting all its efforts to keep the Syrian state united and prevent any possible division, and such efforts are an accomplishment for the Egyptian state.
What do you think about diversifying Egypt’s sources of weapon purchases in the current period?
I think it’s a sound decision. The state of Egypt has restructured the Armed Forces and rendered them even more powerful than they had been, and diversifying sources of weapon purchases has become a matter of supreme importance because it serves the autonomy of decision-making and makes us able to make decisions without any pressures. Egypt is working now on reinforcing its economic capabilities, and reinforcing its military ones is no less important because of the current events in the region, and because all the countries of the region are now in an armament race.
Will Trump’s decision affect Egyptian-American relations?
Egypt’s stance on Jerusalem is solid and unchanging, and Egypt will not make any concessions in this particular matter. Egypt is the voice of the Arabs and represents the entire Arab region, and the American administration is well-aware that Egypt will not back down on supporting Palestinians in their cause, so it’s a nonnegotiable matter.