The spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Naseer Kanaani, said on Monday that Tehran wants to improve relations with Egypt, days after it was announced that Iran and Saudi Arabia had re-established diplomatic relations as part of a Chinese-brokered deal.
“Egypt is an important country in the region and what the region needs is synergy between Iran and Egypt,” Kanaani told journalists, “and we believe in taking new steps to improve our relations.” He added that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had a “quick and positive” meeting during the Baghdad II Summit hosted in Jordan late last year.
Although there has been no immediate comment from Cairo regarding Kanaani’s statement, news of the restoration of relations between Riyadh and Tehran was welcomed.
However, on Monday, the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat cited an informed Egyptian source in Cairo who confirmed that, “The channels of communication between Cairo and Tehran did not stop within the framework of [special circles]. There is an expression of great and high-level appreciation from Iran for Egypt and its political leadership.”
The source added that, “There are no major points of divergence between the two sides except for Tehran’s relationship with the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, as well as taking into account the general Egyptian principle that rejects interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries.”
Egypt’s former Foreign Minister Mohamed Orabi told the newspaper that, “There is no strategic need at the current stage to accelerate steps in this regard.” Nevertheless, he acknowledged that “Iran is a country that plays a major role in the region.”
Tehran’s relationship with Cairo has been fraught since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, primarily due to Egypt’s close alliance with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Matters took a turn for the worse when the exiled Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was granted asylum in Egypt, where he ultimately died and was buried in 1980.
Tensions escalated after Iran’s government named a street in Tehran after Khaled Al-Islambouli, who was responsible for assassinating Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat. More recently, Cairo has expressed concerns about Iran’s perceived meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Egypt’s mission in Tehran is presently headed by a Charge d’Affaires, whereas Iran has an embassy in Cairo that is overseen by an ambassadorial-level diplomat.