Time for Iran to build more bridges? Egypt and Iran to become bedfellows
Egypt should ease visa conditions on Iranians in order to boost economic relations with the Islamic Republic, an Iranian official told Ahram Online on Monday.
Mahmoud El-Sabki, an Iranian economic diplomat in Cairo, said Iranian businessmen faced tough restrictions when attempting to enter Egypt.
Iranian and Egyptian business leaders discussed economic cooperation during an Iran-Egypt economic forum in Tehran last week.
"The Iranian government wants to cooperate with its Egyptian counterpart in several oil-related projects in Egypt worth millions of dollars," Iran’s deputy oil minister, Ahmad El-Khaledi, said during the forum.
The two governments, however, have not yet engaged in cooperation talks.
“No official offers have been presented to the Egyptian government,” El-Sabki added.
Earlier this month Mojtabi Amani, an Iranian diplomat in Egypt, said the volume of trade between Egypt and Iran was around $162 million in the last six months compared to $83 million in 2011.
“We [Iran] have the largest oil reserves in the world, and we can help Egypt fill its fuel gap,” El-Sabki said.
Iran produced about 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in 2011, according to OPEC figures. Iran has been looking for new buyers for its oil as western sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme squeeze sales.
In September, Egypt denied comments attributed to Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi that it was in talks to buy Iranian crude oil.
Diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran have been frozen since the early 80s. Following the Egyptian uprising that unseated long-time US ally Hosni Mubarak, many observers have speculated that Egypt's foreign policy might shift towards the east.
The speculation surged when President Mohamed Morsi visited Iran in August to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran.
During the visit, however, Morsi did not meet with any Iranian officials outside the formalities of the summit.