CAIRO (Aug. 15)
Egypt has injected some new vigor in recent days in its drive to re-establish relations with the Arab world.
The latest campaign, which has been given prominent coverage in the news and editorial columns of the government-controlled press, has included a visit by Osama El-Baz, political advisor to President Hosni Mubarak, to Amman Saturday, where he delivered a letter from Mubarak to Jordan’s King Hussein on recent developments in the region. A similar letter was to be delivered to President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon, where El-Baz was headed from Amman.
At the same time, an active correspondence between Mubarak and President Gaafar Nimeiry of the Sudan has reflected Egypt’s interest in renewing its traditional role as the pivotal point of political movement among the Arab states.
Egypt was stripped of that function following the conclusion of its peace treaty with Israel and the breaking of relations by most Arab countries.
“What is happening in the Arab arena,” Mubarak’s most recent message to Nimeiry on developments in Lebanon, the West Bank and the Iran-Iraq war, is reported to say, “is not the responsibility of any one state or group of states, but rather calls for a collective Arab move arising from a common ground that will help to settle the crises confronting the Arab nation today.”
Mubarak reportedly called for the drafting of a definitive Arab program for Lebanon that will “deny (Israel) any pretext for postponing its withdrawal.”
CURRYING FAVOR WITH IRAQ
The recent flurry of diplomatic activity in Cairo has also included an exchange of visitors with Baghdad, among them Iraqi Foreign Minister Atriq Aziz, who met with Mubarak here last month; an Iraqi delegation of journalists which followed; and Egypt’s Minister of Finance and Foreign Trade, currently visiting Iraq.
Although no formal relations exist between Egypt and Iraq, Egypt has consistently stressed that it maintains good relations with Baghdad, as it does with most of the Arab countries which removed their embassies from Cairo four years ago.
Egypt has also supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf war, which has undoubtedly made the Iraqis more amenable to Egyptian appeals for more tangible ties. A branch of a main Iraqi bank is expected to open in Cairo later this month.
RENEWED CONTACTS WITH SYRIA
Adding a more novel feature to the Egyptian diplomatic drive and recent hints of renewed contacts with Syria, Egypt has consistently pointed to Damascus as one of the few capitals with which relations have not been resumed.
In an interview with the weekly Akhbar El Yom last week, however, Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali hinted at possible contacts between Egypt and Syria to break the deadlock in Lebanon, saying “Egypt believes that dialogue with Arab brothers is always useful and needed.”
Similarly, the omission of Syria by Egypt’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Boutros Ghali, among the Arab countries with whom he noted Egypt had no relations, prompted the somewhat sensational headline in the London-based Arabic-language weekly Al-Magalla, which conducted the interview: “Are There Secret Ties Between Egypt and Syria?” The minister declined comment when asked directly if such ties existed.