Egypt Ready to 'Open New Page' in Relations With Iran

Egyptian Foreign Minister Elaraby meets Iranian official Amani, says people in both countries 'deserve mutual relations reflecting their history and civilization'.

Cairo is ready to re-establish diplomatic ties with Tehran after a break of more than 30 years, Egypt's foreign minister said on Monday, signaling a shift in Iran policy since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

"The Egyptian and Iranian people deserve to have mutual relations reflecting their history and civilization," said Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby after meeting Iranian official Mugtabi Amani.

egypt - AP - March 7 2011
AP

It was the first publicly announced meeting between officials from both countries since Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, handing power to the army.

Shi'ite Muslim Iran and mainly Sunni Egypt severed ties in 1980 following Iran's Islamic revolution and Egypt's recognition of Israel. Both have competed for influence in the Middle East.

Egypt has long been an ally of the United States and Israel but since Mubarak was toppled there have been signs of warming ties between Cairo and Tehran.

"Egypt is open to all countries and the aim is to achieve common interests," Elaraby said, adding that Cairo welcomed "opening a new page with Iran".Amani carried a message from Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who welcomed Egypt's initiative.

"Foreign Minister Salehi ... called for developing bilateral cooperation, beginning with hosting Egypt's foreign minister in Tehran or having Iran's foreign minister visit Cairo," Menha Bakhowm, spokeswoman for Egypt's foreign ministry, said in a statement.

In February, two Iranian warships passed through Egypt's Suez Canal after approval from the military rulers in Cairo. Israel called Iran's move a provocation.

Egypt and Iran have been at odds on a number of issues including the Middle East peace process and ties with Israel and the United States.