On April 6th, 2016, the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs received a delegation from The Embassy of Sweden in Cairo. The delegation was led by Ambassador Charlotta Sparre, Ambassador of Sweden in Cairo, accompanied by Ambassador Birgitta Holst-Alani ex-president of Institute in Alexandria and currently a team member of United Nations special envoy for the Syrian crisis Stefan De Mistura, Assistant Professor of Security, Strategy and Leadership at the Swedish Defense University, Dr. Robert Egnell, and Susann Nilsson, Counselor/Deputy head of the mission at the Swedish Embassy.
Receiving the delegation at the Council we re: Ambassador Dr. Mounir Zaharan , Ambassador Dr. Ezzat Saad , Ambassador Mohamed Hagazy, Mrs Anisa Hassouna Mr. Kamal Abo Okeel, rapporteur of the permanent committee for European Affairs at the council, and Dr Nehal Fahmy
-Ambassdor Mounir Zahran welcomed the delegation while highlighting the council interest in getting acquainted with the most recent updates of the peace negotiations on the Syrian Crisis in Geneva. The Council also expressed interest in Ambassador Birgitta Holst-Alani role in Mr. De Mistura team as the United Nations special envoy for the Syrian Crisis.
- Ambassdor Sparre clarified that the purpose of the Swedish Delegation visit to Cairo was to consult with Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organizations Ambassador Hisham Badr on the Syrian crisis. The Delegation was keen to visit the Council for the purpose of introducing its analysis of regional and international developments and especially in relation to regional conflicts.
She added that the delegation held numerous productive meetings with several Egyptian officials including those from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Endowments, Dar Al-Ifta in addition to a visit to Dr. Ismail Serag eldin, the Director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. In her meeting, she explained, various aspects of bilateral relations were discussed. She added that Egypt currently suffers from terrorist activities and aspires to overcome this conflict. Amb. Sparre also assured that there is currently a specialized expert within the Swedish Embassy responsible for affairs dealing with terrorist confrontation.-
- Ambassador Birgitta addressed the council and recalled the period she worked at The Swedish Institute in Alexandria in 2014 while expressing her content to be working once again in the Middle Eastern Region through Ms. De Mistura’s delegation in Syria. She also made reference to her role in peace talks in Geneva in which she solely is responsible for the file of public service continuity in Syrian reconstruction and development i.e. the humanitarian approach. She added that the political role itself was played by the parties to the crisis. Amb. Birgitta also explained that peace talks are quite slow in progress. She expressed her discontent withthe method by which suspended issues are currently handled while confirming that most of issues are of procedural and organizational nature rather than substantive matters. She added that the UN envoy would handle such matters in the coming round of negotiation expected to be held on the 11th of April, 2016.
She added that Mr. De Mistura announced at the beginning of his appointment to the Syrian case that tasks will be divided into four main groups, each specialized in its respective affairs as follows:
•Military and security and counter terrorism working group,headed by Volker Perthes, Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
•Safety and protection group headed by Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
•Political and legal issues headed by Nicolas Michel, a Swiss citizen.
•Group on the continuity of public services, reconstruction and development, headed by Ambassador Birgitta Holst-Alani.
Ambassador Birgitta added that there is a common ground between the aforementioned groups and that there is continuous coordination and communication between them. However, she clarified that she is unaware of what is discussed in the closed sessions especially those conducted with high representation.
She also mentioned the difficulty of working under such circumstances and that Mr. De Mistura has requested her to give particular attention to women’s issues, civil society, and human rights. She also mentioned her formation of a council dealing with the representation of Syrian women. Ambassador Birgitta added that she aspired to see a 30% representation of women in future ministerial posts as well asa set percentage for women’s municipal representation. She clarified that the current representation of women in Syrian society in 35% before concluding her speech and reiterating that there remains a great deal of work to be done in empowering the Syrian woman.
-Mrs. Anissa Hassouna mentioned that women’s representation in such negotiations should comprise of no less than 50% of the total number of representatives and that there must be efforts to promote the negotiations. She added that its success is determined by the proportion of Syrian women’s representation while emphasizing the need to respect fundamental human rights in the fight against terrorism.
- Dr. Robert Egnell proceeded to introduce his PHD concerning international military operations, the most significant of which were evident in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also expressed his general interest in civil-military relations, human security, women’s issues, and peace.
He expressed his support for Mrs. Hassouna’s proposal regarding women’s participation in Syrian peace negotiations and that they are indeed capable of bringing about reform. He also acknowledged the need to incorporate particular organizations and parties to the negotiations.
He stated that the basic understanding of security pertains to issues concerning threats to existence and that security is not granted but rather is worked for, through militaristic efforts and the confrontation of challenges. However there must be a wider understanding of security particularly in the context of human security.
He expressed that our understanding of security should transcend traditional meaning and encompass the economic and financial aspects of security, terrorism and smuggling of all sorts, illicit arms trafficking,human trafficking…etc.
- Dr Kamel Abu Okeel highlighted that Sweden has suffered from terrorist activity in the past and noted that it has a new framework for justice abiding by the provisions and principles of international law adding that Sweden must aspire to portray this image on a global scale. In terms of Middle Eastern affairs, Dr. Okal pointed out that Europe must fulfill its central role in stabilizing the area and not leave the issue to the United States of America who is currently withdrawing from the region. He concluded his speech by stating that the most important challenge facing international security nowadays is electronic security (cyber-attacks) noting that we now witness the use of modern technology in warfare such as the use of drones.
- Ambassador Mohamed Hegazy underlined that Egypt currently faces the threats of terrorism and that we strive to improve our economic and development capabilities, stressing that Europe has to put into consideration that Egypt has had two revolutions in less than three years and that one must not judge its performance in one year. In his conclusion, Dr. Hegazy stressed that Europe is considered the primary supporter of the Middle Eastern region and that Egypt aspires to achieve full implementation of human rights as do European countries.
-Ambassador Ezzat Saad addressed the issue of Palestine. he outlined that leaving the Palestinian question (conflict) without resolution (settlement) negatively affect regional security and open the door wide to terrorism. Ambassador Saad elaborated on the illusion that this conflict has retreated in recent years in the light of developments in other areas in the region namely: Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. He added that this issue is the Arab World’s first concern and that it is imperative for the United States and its European allies to handle it with more enthusiasm and resolve. Ambassador Saad explained that the United States’ hesitance regarding the issue might be related to the view that its interests in the region are not threatened and subsequently there is no need of pressuring Israel on the matter. Ambassador Dr. Saad also underlined that the Palestinian conflict has previously been used as a tool to secure and maintain power in order to defeat Israel such as in the cases of Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. He pointed out that Iran also utilizes the issue through Hamas to gain regional leverage regardless of the interests of the Palestinian people. He concluded his speech by emphasizing the need to find a just solution and to put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestine for the purpose of supporting the fight against terrorism and respecting human rights.