The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) held its Annual Conference over the course of two days; 21 and 22 December 2016, at the Egyptian Diplomatic Club in Cairo, on "Egyptian Foreign Policy and Regional & International Transformations in the Middle East".
The Conference was opened with a speech by ECFA President, Ambassador Dr. Mounir Zahran, in which he talked about the considerations behind choosing the theme of this year's conference, noting the delicate and difficult challenges facing the Arab Regional System in light of continued terrorist acts, the destruction of States’ national institutions, the wasting of their resources and the impoverishment of their peoples, let alone disregarding the implementation of Resolutions issued by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, in particular UN Resolutions on the Question of Palestine and the continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian and other Arab territories, all of which require the setting an integrated Arab-Egyptian Strategy that deals with these challenges, preserving the pillars of Pan-Arab National Security, in an ever-changing regional environment, that is witnessing blatant intervening in core Arab Affairs by parties from within and outside of the region.
League of Arab States Secretary-General, Mr. Ahmad Aboul-Gheit, addressed the audience in the opening session, where he delivered a speech on the dangers and challenges currently facing the Arab system, calling for the activation of joint Arab action, and the rejection of subtle differences, together with narrow short-sighted interests, in a way that makes the Regional Organization capable of leading such action.
The Arab League Secretary-General has stressed the importance of placing the Question of Palestine back to its natural position as the top-priority item on the Arab agenda, especially in light of the racist policies implemented on the Palestinian People, and the blatant daily aggression perpetrated against their right to an Independent State, with East AL-QUDS ‘Jerusalem’, as its Eternal Capital.
He added that the global scenery is living in a state of anxiety and uncertainty, a feature that is normally dominant during times of crises, noting that the post-globalization transformations have imposed, on States, a new pattern of interactions in order to address unprecedented challenges, the most notable of which are extremism and discrimination based on religious, racial or sectarian grounds.
In this context, he referred to what is being circulated by some on the need to have a new system of cooperation and security in the Middle East, similar to that of the Helsinki process, emphasizing that it would be impossible while Israel continues its occupation of Arab territories and in light of the obvious imbalances in the region.
Assistant Foreign Minister for Arab Affairs, Ambassador Tareq El-Qouni, delivered a speech on behalf of Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Sameh Shukri, who could not participate in the opening session due to sudden engagements, noting the importance of preserving the modern national State and combating terrorism that strikes the region; as well as the need to stop intervening in other States’ internal affairs and to respect the principle of national sovereignty, and to refrain from utilizing double standards in dealing with all the issues of the region, foremost of which the Palestinian issue.
The Conference held in five extended sessions. The first session, which was moderated by Dr. Ahmad Youssuf Ahmad, Professor of Political Science, dealt with the transformations of the Arab Regional System, and the discussions revolved around two papers: the first was presented by Dr. Moataz Salamah, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, and dealt with the current Arab situation and patterns of new Powers; and the second was presented by Dr. Majdy Hammad, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Lebanese International University, and dealt with the Arab League and the current challenges. The commentary remarks on the session were made by Dr. Muhammad As-Saeed Idris, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies.
During the second session, which was moderated by ECFA Board Member, Major General Mohssen El-Nomani, three research papers were reviewed: the first was presented by Dr. Niveen Mossad, Professor of Political Science, on the Iranian Strategy towards the Arab Region; the second was presented by Mr. Muhammad Abdul-Qader Khaleel, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, on the Turkish Strategy; and the third was presented by ECFA Board Member, Major General Muhammad Ibraheem, on the Israeli Situation. The three papers were keen to deal with all these Strategies in terms of their impacts on Egyptian interests, and how to develop Egyptian perceptions for dealing with such Strategies and mitigating their increasing negative influences in the region. The commentary remarks on this session were made by Dr. Amr El-Shoubaki, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies.
The third session, which was moderated by ECFA Board member, Ambassador Muhammad Tawfeeq, addressed the main international roles, and discussed three research papers: the first was presented by Dr. Muhammad Kamal, Professor of Political Science, and focused on US Strategy and its Transformations in the Region, with an emphasis on Policies and Probable Trends after Trump’s wining of US Presidential Election, and the implications thereof for the Region in general, and for Egypt in particular. The second paper, was presented by ECFA Director, Ambassador Dr. Ezzat Saad, and dealt with the Russian Strategy in light of the Russian Intervention in Syria, and inferences and repercussions thereof for the future of Russian Foreign Policy in the Region, in addition to the Developments of Moscow's Relations with the Arab States and with Iran, as well as the Determinants of Russian Role in the Region in general, and the possible impacts of Russia’s Relations with the United States -under the new US Administration- on Russian Role in the Region. The third paper, was presented by Dr. Hisham Mourad, Professor of Political Science, and focused on the European Strategy in the Region in light of the new variables, most important of which is the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union membership (BREXIT), the prospects of extremist hard-right ascent in the west, and the impacts of all that on Egyptian interests. Dr. Aley-Ud-Deen Helal, Professor of Political Science, made the commentary remarks on this session.
The fourth session, on the other hand, was chaired by Dr. Ali- elDeen Helal, Professor of Political Science, and addressed the Challenges facing Egyptian Foreign Policy, through discussing two research papers: one analytical paper, presented by Dr. Eman Rajab, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, on Change and Continuity in the wake of the two revolutions (January 25th and June 30th); and the other, presented by Dr. Hassan Abou-Taleb, the Expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, dealing with an Analysis of the Motives and Directions of Egyptian Policy toward Major Arab Crises. ECFA Board Member, Ambassador Muhammad Hijazi, made commentary remarks on that session.
The fifth session, which was moderated by ECFA Board Member, Dr. Mostafa Al-Feqqi, discussed a paper presented by ECFA Board Member, Ambassador Muhammad Badr-el Deen Zayed, on the Alternatives of the Movement befor the Egyptian Foreign Policy, and Approaches to address Challenges stemming from Regional and International Transformations, as well as Structural Challenges, including Prospects for Developing the Performance of Egyptian foreign Policy and ways of moving forward with Arab and Regional neighbouring States. Dr. Ali-elDeen Helal, Professor of Political Science, made the commentary remarks on that session.
ECFA President, Ambassador, Dr. Mounir Zahran, concluded the Conference, assuring the audience that ECFA will hold subsequent conferences to talk on the African Dimension in Egypt's Foreign Policy in light of the strong competition amongst International Powers, in the foremost of which are China, Japan and India, to exploit the Continent’s potential, emphasizing that Egyptian Foreign Policy revolves around constant principles and variable positions, the most important of which are preserving Egypt's independence and territorial integrity, defending its interests at home and abroad, taking into account the rights and interests of Egyptian individuals and companies abroad, as well as encouraging and attracting foreign investment at home, and Egypt's commitments towards implementing its pledges and obligations stemming from the provisions of International and Regional Conventions, according to the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, and as stated in Article II of the Charter, in particular the sovereign equality of States, the renunciation of the use or threat of the use of force in international relations and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, with emphasize put on the respect and promotion of human rights.