(Photo Credit Shafaq News)
Iraq is hosting negotiations between Iran and Egypt to resume full diplomatic relations, with preparations underway for a meeting between Presidents Ebrahim Raisi and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Shafaq News reported on 14 May.
Fadahussein Maleki, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, stated that “negotiations between Iran and Egypt are ongoing in Iraq, and we will witness the re-establishment of Iranian-Egyptian relations in the near future. We anticipate the opening of embassies between the two countries, and following this step, preparations will be made for a meeting between the Iranian President and the Egyptian President.”
Maleki further emphasized that “rebuilding relations between Iran and Egypt is of utmost importance because Egypt is one of the oldest and most civilized countries in the region and the world. Therefore, Egypt holds great significance and is highly valued compared to other nations.”
The negotiations come following Iran’s broader push to re-establish relations with Arab states, most notably Saudi Arabia.
Iran and Saudi Arabia reached a deal brokered in Beijing by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in March of this year to resume relations after decades of hostility.
Saudi Arabia and Iran had taken opposite sides in US-backed proxy wars meant to divide Iraq and Syria, whose Baathist-led governments were hostile to Israel.
Only three days after announcing a deal to re-establish diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, Iran stated it wanted to improve ties with Egypt, the National reported.
“Egypt is an important country in the region, and what the region needs is synergy between Iran and Egypt, and we believe in taking new steps to improve our relations,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said.
Though lacking Saudi Arabia’s vast energy resources, Egypt is nevertheless a regional Sunni power. Cairo’s 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar Mosque is considered the world’s primary seat of Sunni Islamic learning. Egypt is also the most populous Arab state, with a population of more than 100 million people.
As Al-Monitor noted, relations between Shia-dominated Iran and Sunni-dominated Egypt have been poor since the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution and fled to Egypt, where he was granted asylum by then-President Anwar Sadat.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed in 1980, but partially resumed 11 years later under Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the chargé d’affaires rather than embassy level.
Relations improved following the election of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in 2012, which saw mutual visits at the presidential level. However, Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed in a Saudi-backed coup by then-General Sisi in 2013, who later became president.
Relations between Iran and Egypt, therefore, remained contingent upon Iran-Saudi relations.
Hassan Abu Talib, adviser to the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, explained in 2019 that “normalization with Iran depends on several factors — mainly getting Iran to stop interfering in the affairs of several Arab countries, namely Yemen and Iraq, and to initiate a good-neighbor approach with its neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.”