After opening a political track with Iran by welcoming President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Cairo, Egypt has now turned to Iraq — Iran’s ally — as a country with which it wishes to deepen its engagement.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil was accorded a red carpet welcome when he arrived in Baghdad on Monday.
Soon after his arrival, it was announced that Iraq plans to transfer oil to Egypt along a three-nation pipeline.
The early signs of strategic energy partnership between Egypt and Iraq were underscored by the details of the project: Iraqi oil would be moved along a trans-national pipeline that would be constructed through Jordan before terminating in Egypt.
Hatem Saleh, Minister of Industry and Trade, told the official MENA news agency that Egypt would refine the oil into consumable products such as diesel, gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas. Mr. Saleh is part of the prime ministerial delegation. Ministers of Electricity, Petroleum, Planning and International Cooperation are part of the high-profile group.
Solution for Syria
Talks between Mr. Qandil and Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister also covered Syria. Both sides spoke about ending foreign interference and advocated a political solution - remarks that seemed to suggest that Egypt was no longer a front-row enthusiast rooting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s exit.
In economic doldrums in the absence of $4.8-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Egypt is nevertheless making a concerted effort to court some of the countries in its neighbourhood, including Iran and Iraq, as well as emerging power-houses such as China, India and Brazil.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy chose China as his first destination outside West Asia and Africa for an overseas visit.
Accompanied by 80 Egyptian businessmen, the President had told his Chinese hosts that Egypt hoped to develop economic ties with China in several areas including manufacturing, agriculture, finance and communications.
Reboot ties with India
Mr. Morsy now heads for India later this month to reboot a relationship that had for years stagnated during the former presidency of Hosni Mubarak. Diplomatic sources said that Egypt is looking for a substantial Indian contribution in its ambitious multi-billion dollar al-Nahda (renaissance) project, which hopes to change the urban and industrial landscape elsewhere and around the Suez.
The Egyptians have ambitious plans of tapping into Indian expertise in the Information Technology sector.
But the visitors would also be keen to benefit from the less flashy Indian experience in conducting elections; the recently implemented direct benefit cash transfer scheme; as well as advances in micro-credit.