Egypt President Morsi Visiting Iran for the First Time in Decades

Hamid Baghaei, the Iranian Vice President went to Cairo, Egypt to invite the Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, to attend a summit held in Iran. Egypt and Iran have had no ties for decades since 1979, after Iran went through an Islamic revolution and Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Although both the countries are known to cooperate on all diplomatic affairs at a non-ambassador level, a high ranking official has made the trip to Egypt for the first time in decades and vice versa. The main reason for dissension was that under Hosni Mubarak, Morsi’s predecessor, Egypt, which is mostly Sunni Muslim, tried to isolate the Shiite-led Iran, joining with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab states.

Morsi’s visit to Iran was in order to participate in the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Tehran. The Non-Aligned Movement comprises of all the countries that are not officially aligned or against any major power blocs or the west. About 120 countries from mainly the Middle East, Africa and few countries from Asia and South America are members of this group.

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This visit could start a new relationship between the two countries that have been distant and not very affable for decades. The trip came within a few days of Morsi including Iran in a proposal to form a contract group that would try to mediate peace in Syria to stop the escalating civil war.

Egypt’s president, Morsi, was welcomed by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the conference hall in Tehran. This is the first time both the presidents have met after Morsi became the first elected president of Egypt, subsequent to the uprising in Egypt. Morsi called the President Bashar Assad regime ‘oppressive’ and openly denounced former ally, Syria, over the civil war. There seems to be a difference between the two countries with regard to the crisis in Syria. While Iran supports the Damascus regime, Egyptians generally sympathise with the opposition seeking to oust Bashar Assad.

United States claims that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons in Tehran to fight against Israel. However, in this summit, Iran has tried to counter claims made by the United States saying that Iran is isolated due to its nuclear programme and stated that the weapons are only for peaceful purposes. Morsi’s trip to Iran was after his trip to China, where he announced that Egypt would restart their nuclear programme.

Egypt has signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and has, recently, made an agreement with Russia to develop nuclear facilities. Reportedly, Morsi has been invited to tour the Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran.

It is said that one of the more ambitious agenda of the Tehran summit was to launch a peace effort from countries like Egypt, Iran and other counties to resolve the crisis in Syria, although the outcome is yet not decided.