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Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry on Tuesday stressed the importance of tripartite coordination between Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq, during a Cairo press conference with Jordanian foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safady and Iraqi foreign Minister Fouad Hussein.
The meeting aimed to achieve cooperation in energy, construction, and electricity, he said, as per the orders of the Egyptian and Iraqi presidents. Shokry added, “We work on achieving cooperation for the benefit of the people, under the common ground of political and economic consensus and to allow us to address political issues.”
The three countries exchanged shared views on the importance of preserving national security and facing all challenges, and agreed to follow up on the Palestinian cause in an effort to push the two state solution forward and establish a Palestinian state with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
The three parties also agreed on the the importance of continuing to support a political settlement through direct negotiation.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday received Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fouad Mohammad Hussein, and the Iraqi ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Nayef al-Delaimy, to discuss historical ties and future relations between Egypt and Iraq. Iraq confirmed its appreciation of Egypt’s efforts to support its affairs, according to Egypt’s presidential spokesperson Bassam Rady.
Rady added that Iraq’s Prime Minster, Mostafa al-Kazmy, sent a message to President Sisi asking to strengthen cooperation with Egypt, either at the bilateral level or between the two countries and Jordan.
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The tripartite meeting between the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, and the ensuing agreements to boost cooperation raises questions about a nascent alliance that could confront Iran’s growing influence in the region.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) and his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, attend a joint press conference following their meeting at al-Tahrir Palace in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Oct. 12, 2020. Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images.
gulf cooperation council, g20, islamic state, energy, infrastructure, alliance, king abdullah ii, abdel fattah al-sisi
Oct 19, 2020
CAIRO — The foreign ministers of Iraq, Egypt and Jordan met Oct. 13 in Cairo to discuss a joint coordination mechanism. The meeting raised the question of whether an Arab alliance is emerging in light of the growing coordination between the three countries.
In a joint press conference with his Egyptian and Iraqi counterparts following the meeting, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said, “Our security is one and our future is one. Bringing about a common Arab security requires greater cooperation.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated, “There is total consensus on the importance of maintaining the stability of our countries and Arab entourage and not interfering in their affairs.”
He noted that the three discussed ways to activate cooperation frameworks in the fields of energy, reconstruction and electricity, on the basis of this political and economic consensus.
Safadi, meanwhile, mentioned a power grid connection between Jordan and Egypt, adding that Jordan has already signed a power grid connection agreement with Iraq. He said the oil pipeline project that starts from Iraq’s Basra to Egypt and passes through Jordan’s Aqaba city is underway.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said the meeting focused on economic issues and ways to establish a mechanism for the continuation of their joint action. He said they prepared the agenda of the next meeting that will be held at the leadership level, without specifying a date.
He added, “We discussed projects in the energy field … and reconstruction, especially in Iraq where many cities are destroyed. We focused on ways to benefit from Egyptian and Jordanian companies in this field and help the Iraqi people rebuild their cities.”
Prior to the tripartite talks, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had met with the Jordanian and Iraqi foreign ministers in two separate meetings. Sisi stressed that “the joint coordination, the willpower and unity of Arab positions would impose the setters and lines of Arab national security.”
The recent talks come as part of the implementation of the mechanism agreed upon at the tripartite summit held between Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Aug. 25 in Amman.
At that summit, Kadhimi proposed a new Levantine project, in line with the European format, to be based on mutual political and economic understandings between the three countries.
Rakha Hassan, a member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, told Al-Monitor that the recent meetings reflect the growing close cooperation between the three countries, as they share a unified vision on regional issues in the absence of joint Arab action.
Hassan said the current Iraqi government is seeking rapprochement with Arab states, away from Iran, and is thus working hard to achieve stability and consolidate state control over weapons in order to start rebuilding the country.
“Egypt has extensive experience in the infrastructure sector, and Egyptian construction companies are ready to take part in the reconstruction of Iraq. Also, Jordan will be an important link between Baghdad and Cairo in any energy transfer lines,” Hassan added.
Hassan also spoke about challenges that may affect the tripartite cooperation, such as the Iraqi pro-Iran factions’ opposition to the state’s control of arms, the ongoing conflict between Iran and the United States on the Iraqi arena, and the Turkish intervention in Iraq.
Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, described this tripartite cooperation as “an alliance of necessity, given the difficult circumstances that these three countries have gone through.”
While the Iraqi government struggles to impose control over its own territory in preparation for the reconstruction of the cities that the Islamic State destroyed in the past years, Jordan is suffering from a severe economic crisis and Egypt has been implementing a strict economic program since 2016. The program has exacerbated the social and economic crises in Egypt, as almost a third of the population suffers from poverty, according to official statistics.
Nafaa told Al-Monitor that the rapprochement between the three countries is not initially of a political nature but concerns commercial and economic goals.
The ministers of trade and industry of the three countries held a video conference on Oct. 4 in which they agreed to start cooperating in four sectors, namely in the pharmaceutical, chemical, textile and ceramic industries, provided that each country prepares lists of companies and investors interested in building partnerships in these fields and shares them with the other countries within 10 days.
Abdul Hussein Shaaban, an Iraqi researcher, said the nascent axis can only succeed by “turning these agreements into plans and projects that are applicable on the ground.”
He told Al-Monitor, “It is too early to say that a new alliance is being formed since a strategic alliance requires a long time to be established. Yet, if achieved, it will benefit the peoples of the three countries and joint Arab action.”
The three countries had previously formed the Arab Cooperation Council in 1989, alongside Yemen, at the initiative of late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The council collapsed a year later following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Shaaban commented that “the new cooperation comes at a time when the Arab world suffers from severe religious and sectarian divide, armed conflicts and civil wars.”
“Nevertheless, the emerging axis can play a political role as well, given the lack of any Arab project in the Arab region in the face of the nationalist hegemony projects, such as the Iranian and Turkish projects, or the Israeli project that seeks to expand at the expense of the Arabs,” Shaaban explained.
Commenting on the position of the Gulf states, he said, “I do not think that [the Iraq, Egypt, Jordan axis] will turn into an axis in the face of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Egypt and Jordan have close relations with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, and Iraq is trying to improve its relations with the Gulf countries and calls on them to understand its special case as an arena of Iranian-US conflict.”
“Any limited or broad Arab alliance will seek to boost relations with Saudi Arabia, given its pivotal role at the regional level and ahead of the G20 Summit, which Riyadh will host next month,” Shaaban added.
Nafaa agreed, saying, “The Gulf states understand the need for an emerging alliance and indirectly encourage it in the hope that it will manage to push Iraq away from Iranian hegemony as much as possible.”
Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/10/egypt-jordan-iraq-alliance-iran-influence-arab-affairs.html#ixzz6bLzhDYT0
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After the end of the war against ISIS, and its need to open up more to its Arab and regional surroundings, Iraq looks forward to diversifying its diplomatic relations, focusing on economic aspects, rebuilding cities, rehabilitating infrastructure, and expanding foreign investment in the field of energy.
For years, the Iraqi decision remained subject to a large extent to Iranian policies, both direct and passed through the leaders of political blocs allied to Iran, which controlled most of the seats in the Iraqi parliament.
And after the American and Gulf tensions with Iran, Iraq is subject to the equation of bartering its return to its Arab environment, in exchange for moving away, even partially, from rotating in the orbit of Iranian politics, which is the approach of Mustafa Al-Kazemi's government, after he assumed the presidency of the executive authority, last May.
Al-Kazemi believes that the exclusion of Iraq from the policy of the axes, in light of the international and regional polarizations taking place throughout the Middle East region, will therefore be in the interest of the Iraqi people, and restore the state's authority over the security, political and economic decision.
On August 25, the Jordanian capital, Amman, hosted a tripartite summit that brought together the leaders of Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, for the third time at this level.
The Amman summit came after the Cairo summits in March 2019, and New York in September of the same year, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings.
Four countries came together in 1989 to form the Arab Cooperation Council, after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, and the council included the three countries, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan in addition to Yemen. It ended with Iraq’s invasion of the State of Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
The Council focused on Al-Arabi "on the political aspects to a lesser extent, with the absence of quadripartite military coordination or talk about it, while its primary goal was to create an economic partnership, without being a competitor to the Cooperation Council for the Arab Gulf States, but rather integration between the two councils.
** The position on Iran
It seems that the aim of the efforts to draw Iraq to its Arab environment is to keep it away from Iran and move closer to the axis led by Saudi Arabia, which raises internal disputes in Iraq, in which Iran, through its allies, has wide influence in the security, economic and political files.
The economic aspect takes the largest part of the trilateral talks between Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, as the three countries suffer from crises and accumulated economic problems.
As for the political aspect, it may be that expressing common positions in regional files, such as Iranian interference in the files of Iraq, Syria and Libya, is the least concerned, and it was not expressed in the joint statements clearly and explicitly, but rather general formulations that do not refer to any other party.
The Egyptian regime may have a desire to adopt a joint "Iraqi-Jordanian" position regarding the civil war in Libya, but Iraq at least cannot adopt a position against Turkey, which is coordinating with it in the framework of ridding it of the presence and influence of the PKK terrorist organization.
Iraq's position on Turkey comes in the context of a broader strategy adopted by Al-Kazemi to restore the imposition of state authority on all Iraqi lands, as Bi Kaka has areas of influence in the governorates of the Kurdistan region, and Nineveh, to which the Sinjar district belongs.
It also controls large parts of the district and the adjacent areas, reaching the Qandil Mountains in the Erbil governorate to the east, and the Syrian province of Hasaka in the west.
On the geographical side, Jordan is a point of land communication, with no alternative between Iraq and Egypt.
** Different priorities
Among the topics discussed between the three countries was the initiation of the development of mechanisms for the integration of the electric power grid, and the extension of an oil pipeline from Iraq through Jordan to Egypt, with a parallel road to transport goods and commodities between the three countries.
Each of the three countries needs the other two, economically, and the support and support of the Gulf Cooperation Council states.
Iraq still needs foreign aid in reconstruction, imposing state authority, restoring its decision, stopping foreign interference, and disarming Shiite armed groups allied to Iran, in addition to the economic crisis due to the drop in oil prices in the global market, and the repercussions of the Corona pandemic on the economies of the world countries.
Egypt or Jordan, which are experiencing more severe economic conditions than Iraq, may not have enough capabilities and capabilities to help Iraq in all of its crises, which are mostly economic ones.
But they, namely Jordan and Egypt, can support Iraq politically, in its endeavor to prevent foreign interference, through the Arab League, where Egypt has an active role close to controlling the League’s decision and directing it in line with its foreign policies and its positions, whether from Turkey or Iran.
The tripartite coordination does not seem a substitute for the Arab League, which did not hold its summit this year (2020) in Algeria under the pretext of the Corona pandemic, which has not prevented the organization of other international summits by default, which reflects the fact that the role of the League has retreated to its lowest levels, the extent that some countries may see that the continuation of The existence of the organization is no longer an Arab necessity.
In addition to achieving economic gains, Egypt is seeking to garner Iraqi and Jordanian political support for its regional positions.
As for Jordan, it seeks to achieve more economic gains and support the Kingdom's approach to a two-state solution based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the continuation of Jordan's role in caring for the holy sites of Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem, which is important for Jordan, which fears the repercussions of Emirati-Israeli normalization on its guardianship. On the holy places.
And if the three countries meet on an alliance with the United States, with the difference in the political priorities of each of them, then the presence of such a partnership may enhance joint Arab action.
As it is possible that the three countries will coordinate with the Gulf Cooperation Council states system, and open the door for Arab countries in North Africa to enter as new partners, while it may not seem that there are countries in the Arab East eligible for this, such as Syria, Lebanon or Yemen.
It is believed that the new tripartite bloc does not seek to compete with the Gulf Cooperation Council, but rather complements it or integrates with it in the future.
** The future of the bloc
It is difficult to say that the partnership between the three countries can constitute an effective pivot in the geopolitical changes in the region, although Egypt has sought over the past two years to increase its influence in Libya, the Mediterranean and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which are files that generally do not concern Iraq or Jordan. Except for the Palestinian file.
In a reading of the effective regional power balances in the region, we may not find any effective regional Arab role, in contrast to the presence of three effective regional powers affecting the region's files, Israel, Iran and Turkey, in addition to the influence and international intervention by America, Russia and France.
Therefore, the three countries do not seem to possess enough capabilities to form a strong and effective alliance or bloc in the region.
But in any case, it can be said that it is a tripartite political bloc, which mainly depends on economic aspects, and gives it priority in coordination and joint talks.
However, this does not negate the fact that there is a tripartite effort to agree on specific participants and positions regarding the overall geopolitical transformations that the region is going through, and the internal conflicts and wars, which have mostly turned into proxy wars, and the settling of accounts for external parties.
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