Egypt’s presidential vote pivotal for restoring relations, says Iranian diplomat

Egypt’s presidential elections are an important step toward the two countries restoring full diplomatic relations, a senior Iranian diplomat in Cairo has said.

Mojtaba Amani, the Iranian charge d’affaires to Cairo, told Youm7 newspaper in remarks published on Monday that the two countries were optimistic about normalizing diplomatic relations following the removal of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Amani referred to remarks made by former Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Araby earlier last year, in which he said that Egypt should open a “new page” with the Islamic republic after three decades of turbulent relations.

Cairo and Tehran have had complicated diplomatic relations throughout the 20th century. The shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was briefly married to Princess Fawzia, sister of King Farouk of Egypt. But following the 1952 revolution, deep divisions erupted between socialist Egypt and the shah.

Though late President Anwar Sadat enjoyed good relations with Tehran, following Egypt’s recognition of Israel, Iran broke off diplomatic relations with Cairo in 1980 after the Islamic revolution.

Under Mubarak, Egypt — the most populous Sunni Arab state —  worked to check the influence of Shia Iran in the region amid concerns over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and support for the Lebanese Hizbullah movement.

Shortly after the fall of Mubarak last year, Araby said, “The Egyptian and Iranian people deserve relations which reflect their history and civilization, provided they are based on mutual respect of state sovereignty and non-interference of any kind in internal affairs.”

“Optimism [about restoring relations] was there in Iran as well, and even more,” said Amani.

He added that Araby later said that talk about relations should come after parliamentary elections and after completion of the ruling institutions in Egypt.

The presidential vote is slated for 23 to 24 May and the new president is expected to be announced on 21 June.

Egypt is currently occupied with internal priorities, Amani said, adding that Iran doesn’t want to rush resuming relations, and would rather allow decision makers in Egypt ample time to form a new government and institutions.

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