Gulf countries dismayed by Egypt’s Iran overture timing

April 25, 2011
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Arab Gulf countries have expressed concerns to Egypt about its reported overture towards Iran at a time when they are putting up with “blatant Iranian interference in their domestic affairs,” a Kuwaiti daily reported on Sunday.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries conveyed their unease to the Egyptian leaders ahead of a planned visit by Essam Sharaf, the prime minister of the interim government of Egypt, to Gulf countries, Al Qabas daily said.

“The GCC countries have agreed that Egypt should resume its vital pan-Arab role,” the daily quoted Gulf sources as saying. “The GCC countries are concerned about the multiple and divergent views in Egypt about the role Cairo can assume to reinforce the security and stability of the Gulf and on relations with Tehran. The message conveyed by the GCC to Egypt is that President Essam Sharaf is touring the Gulf to reinforce Gulf investments in his country. However,  Cairo is talking officially about stronger relations with Iran while the six GCC countries are complaining to the Security Council about Iran’s threats and interference in the GCC states,” the sources that the newspaper did not identify said.

According to the report, the GCC favoured closer relations and broader cooperation with all people, but was perplexed about the timing by Cairo to seek better relations with Tehran.

“The GCC expects a more supportive stance from Cairo and its current attitudes could send the wrong signal that Egypt’s traditional pan-Arab stance has eroded. The GCC countries do not want an Egypt-Iran rapprochement at their expense,” the sources said. “The GCC is hopeful that the Gulf tour by the Egyptian leader sends a strong signal of support that there is no political vacuum in Egypt and that Cairo will not hesitate to support Arab issues.”

In remarks published by the Saudi Gazette daily on Sunday, one day ahead of his planned visit to Saudi Arabia, Essam Sharaf said that Cairo wanted to strengthen its relations with Tehran, but “on condition that it does not interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt and other countries in the Gulf and the region.”

According to the sources, the military council in Egypt supports the security of the Gulf, but other parties are calling to open up new channels with Iran.

Al Qabas said that the sources also expressed concern in the Gulf about an escalation of the situation following reports that 200 Iranian students on Friday set off aboard two ships “to help end the crisis in Bahrain, but were forced to return to the port of Bushehr by the Iranian maritime police.

“Have the GCC countries, the main supporter of Arab and Islamic issues, become like Israel so that Iran sends them freedom flotillas?” the sources were quoted as asking.

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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