Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry in an interview with Egypt Today, October 2018. Egypt Today/Engy Magdy
TOKYO - 8 October 2018: Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry has been holding visits to expand Egypt’s relations with its partners worldwide. The minister headed from New York to Tokyo to launch an Egyptian-Japanese dialogue mechanism and to participate in ministerial meetings in preparation for TICAD summit.
The seventh summit of the Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development (TICAD) will take place in August 2019, whereas President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will lead African delegations as Egypt chairs the African Union (AU).
Since Egypt has restored its leading role in Africa backed by its regional value, Shoukry held a series of meetings with Japanese high-ranking officials throughout his visit to Tokyo that started on Oct 5. The talks covered bilateral relations and Egypt’s role as leader of the AU.
The minister sat for an interview with Egypt Today to display Egypt’s plans for Africa and for boosting relations on regional and international scales, and to highlight the strategic dialogue between Cairo and Tokyo.
Shoukry says that the main goal behind the visit is launching the Egyptian-Japanese strategic dialogue in order to take bilateral political relations to a higher level in terms of continuity as well as coordination of stances and visions on matters of mutual interest whether regionally or internationally. Holding such dialogue is an indicator of political willpower in both countries to deepen and expand cooperation, the minister added.
Shoukry expressed his pleasure of the warm welcome by the Shinzo Abe, saying it reflects Japan’s appreciation of relations with Egypt and its role as regional power. He explained that the economic, political, and social reforms undertaken by President Sisi solidify Egypt’s position in the region and create opportunities to cooperate with a developed country like Japan which has the qualifications to contribute in development plans adopted by Egypt.
Terrorism is one of the main obstacles facing development. Is there security cooperation with Japan? Is the news published by the Japanese publication on the participation of Japanese soldiers in peacekeeping forces in Sinai true?
Japan does not have any actual participation in multinational forces in Sinai. What has been circulating in press lacks accuracy. Japan has been supporting peace, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and peacekeeping forces for years through financial aid within the framework of Japan's efforts to strengthen world peace and stability.
As for terrorism, Egypt is keen to increase security cooperation with all partners in the intelligence and information exchange aspect. Terror is a global issue that threatens the security and stability of all countries. Hence, combatting that phenomenon requires the full cooperation and resistance of the entire international community. Resistance can be in the form of military operations, security information exchange, and standing against countries supporting terrorism. In Egypt’s ties with its partners, that must be an integral element.
How can Egypt benefit from the competition between Japan and China to penetrate the market and strengthen the country’s political and economic status in the region?
I don’t prefer the term competition. Egypt has ramified ties with many of the world countries and we are eager to build relations upon mutual interests, achieving those interests in a balanced fashion and giving all partners a chance to benefit from all the advantages and utilities available in Egypt in line with their abilities and capacities. Such relations serve Egyptian interests and developmental efforts, while directly benefiting countries and enlarging the scope of their investments in Egypt as well as their economic dealings.
Can Asian powers substitute traditional ones in the Egyptian market? In other words, can Asian corporations dominate the market in Egypt?
Countries like China and Japan generate financial investable surplus. Egypt establishes balanced relations with many countries whether in Asia or in Europe and it has agreements that define such relations like the EU-Egypt Association Agreement. However, Egypt offers opportunities for all partners in new economic and industrial zones such as SCzone.
Recently, you made statements implying that Egypt is close to obtaining a permanent seat in the UN Security Council representing Africa and stances in the continent are differing on the matter. What are the reasons behind some African countries' objection and are there any non-African countries pushing against Egypt’s acquisition of the seat?
It is too early to talk about a direct pursuit of a permanent membership in the Security Council. There are ongoing talks and consultations on reforming the United Nations system. The Security Council and Egypt are abiding by the Ezulwini Consensus signed in 2005 and that reflects Africa’s position on the representation in the Security Council. The consensus has not identified countries that should be backed for the permanent membership. It has just stated that Africa must have two permanent seats in the UN.
It is too early in the negotiations phase within the UN to tackle the matter. Thus, Egypt does not perceive any reason for a competition among African countries as the stage for determining potential candidates has not been reached yet. Definitely, Egypt is qualified for the role as well as other African countries and when it is time for the goal to become achievable, there will be consultations within the continent to select its representatives.
How can Egypt’s leadership of Africa in the seventh TICAD summit be a chance to reshape its image in the continent?
Egypt does not need to reshape its image in Africa as throughout the past four years Egypt has gotten further involved in African affairs and given more value to mutual interests with African partners. That was epitomized in the presidential visits and interactions on African causes as well as Egypt’s effective participation in the AU events. Within bilateral relations, Egypt provides support for African countries in different domains such as skill-building. That policy will be the same while chairing the AU in 2019 and co-leading the TCAD along with Japan, as the main goal is accomplishing African skill-building and benefiting from good ties with countries like Japan to create new opportunities for cooperation and contribution in developmental endeavors.
Within the framework of development endeavors, what are the main features of Egypt’s plan for its leadership of the AU?
The plan is diverse and relevant to political aspects, conflicts resolution, development, developing a unified vision on international matters, attracting global support for African causes, strengthening inter-African relations, improving the infrastructure in the continent for the purpose of boosting its economic capabilities, and concluding the continental free trade agreement.
As Africa can be a promising market for Egypt, what are the obstacles to penetrate and export to that market and what can be the role of the private sector?
The capabilities and contributions of the Egyptian private sector in the internal market are increasing and thus it has to explore opportunities and operate within the integrating framework existing in the continent. Egypt has a high competitive advantage compared to its African counterparts, so it must contribute in their development efforts through Egyptian investments on their soil. All these endeavors boost domains of cooperation within the continent which constitutes one of Egypt’s national security bases.