Egypt Foreign Minister: Egypt does not want to be isolated

Published May 5th, 2014 - 11:30 GMT

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said on Sunday that both Washington and Cairo wish to maintain their ties, adding that Egypt does not wish to be isolated.

During an interview aired on CNN on Sunday, Fahmy said US officials had affirmed they "want to move on together."

Relations between Washington and Cairo soured following the military's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer following massive protests against him.

The U.S. withheld a large chunk of its $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt last October to express its displeasure at a violent crackdown on Morsi's supporters. Washington, however, has since treaded carefully by refraining from calling Morsi's removal a coup in a bid to maintain strategic ties with its key Middle East ally. 

"While we will do our thing ourselves, we will do it consistent with international laws. We're not trying to create an isolated state here," Fahmy said.

The senior diplomat admitted there were differences of opinion within the Egyptian government, as is the case, he said, in the Obama administration, "not because we're against each other but that's the nature of the political beast."

Egypt has been gripped by deepening polarization and political turmoil since Morsi's removal last July. Authorities have cracked down hard on his Islamist supporters, and have also gone after secular activists protesting against a widening crackdown on dissent.

Fahmy has come under fire for describing U.S.-Egypt relations as "a marriage… not a fling" during an interview with Washington-based National Public Radio last week (NPR). He emphasised the longstanding ties between the countries despite recent "hiccups."

Commenting on mass death sentences handed out last week to 683 alleged supporters of the former president, Fahmy said the issue was for the court to decide, but acknowledged the sentences were severe and raised doubts.

"The imagery is tough. And it leaves question marks. And I've been addressing them. I address them the only way I can by saying we will ensure due process."

Asked about including Islamists in the country's political process, Fahmy said that widespread violence blamed on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group could no longer be accepted.

"There is a point when you can't accept violence. If you pursue violence for political purposes, you are a terrorist organization."

Authorities labeled the Brotherhood -- once Egypt's largest and best organised political party -- a terrorist organization last December, accusing it of links with Islamist insurgents who have launched a campaign of bombings and shootings since Morsi's removal.

Much of the group's upper echelons are now behind bars along with thousands of members and sympathisers. Hundreds of others, mostly Islamists, have been killed in street violence.

"If you are an Egyptian and you want to -- accept the constitution as your charter and act peacefully, you will have your role in society. That's clear."


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