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Egypt seeks to foster ties with Serbia’s Muslims ‘to counter Brotherhood in Kosovo’ 

December 4, 2022 at 3:19 pm

Muslims perform prayer at the Istanbul Mosque in Novi Pazar, Serbia on May 02, 2022 [Aleksandar Niciforovic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images]

Egypt is looking to reach out to Serbia’s Muslim community as part of efforts to boost its influence in the Balkans, according to a report by Al-Monitor.

On 16 November Egypt’s ambassador to Belgrade, Bassel Salah met with Serbia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Mustafa Yusuf Spahic, where it was agreed that Cairo will send religious envoys to the south eastern European country to provide Serbian Muslim students the opportunity to study at Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University.

Salah also said that the Serbian Muslim scholars will be invited to attend Egyptian Islamic conferences.

READ: Christian rights’ group welcomes Egypt legalisation of 125 churches

It has been speculated that Cairo’s overtures to Serbia’s Muslim minority is intended to counter the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt, in the neighbouring Kosovo. Last year a report by Al-Arabiya suggested that Kosovo could become a safe haven for Brotherhood members who were residing in Turkiye, following increasing Turkish-Egyptian rapprochement. It has been reported that Turkish authorities have been cracking down on the Brotherhood in the country, claims which have been denied by officials.

The disputed territory was recognised as an independent state under the Brotherhood-affiliated, late Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. However, the position was reversed under current President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi who has since strengthened relations with Belgrade.

In July Sisi met with his Serbian counterpart in Belgrade, Aleksander Vucic where a strategic partnership agreement was signed, which included Serbia exporting wheat to the North African country amid its food crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine. Sisi’s trip was notable in that it was the first made by an Egyptian president to the Serbian capital in 35 years. The year before, both countries signed a military cooperation protocol in Cairo.