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Fahmy begins UK visit

Terrorism and Middle East peace process top foreign minister’s agenda in London

Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy (AFP Photo)
Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy
(AFP Photo)

The fight against terror, economy and regional issues will be on the agenda during Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy’s visit to the United Kingdom, where he arrived on Monday.

Fahmy will meet UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa Hugh Robertson as well as members of “the parliamentary group of the friends of Egypt”, said a Monday statement from the foreign ministry.

The meetings in London are expected to focus on bilateral relations and “ways of enhancing them in different fields; political, economic, trade and security as well as cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

The UK government announced in April that it would be launching a “review of the Muslim Brotherhood”, which has been declared a terrorist organisation in Egypt. The review is to look at “the philosophy, activities, impact and influence on UK national interests, at home and abroad, of the Muslim Brotherhood and of [UK] government policy towards the organisation”. The UK government is accepting evidence from “interested parties” until 30 May to contribute to the review.

While the UK has not followed Egypt in declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, it did list Sinai based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis as such. Egypt declared the group a terrorist organisation  two weeks later.

In recent weeks Hague has been critical of some of Egypt’s domestic issues, most notably the handing down of hundreds of provisional death sentences in Minya and the banning of the 6 April Youth Movement. The foreign secretary also said he was “deeply concerned by the harassment and detention of journalists in Egypt”.

Currently two British citizens, Sue Turton and Dominic Kane who are both Al Jazeera English employees, are being tried in absentia, accused of spreading false news and creating a “terrorist media network”. Turton and Kane’s colleagues Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed are detained in Egypt and attend the trial sessions along with five students and twelve others.

Fahmy and Hague will also discuss “regional and international issues of common interest” with the Middle East peace process at the top of the agenda, as well as developments in the Syrian conflict, Libya, South Sudan and “a number of African issues.”

Hague attended the European Union Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday, where the EU foreign ministers said they were “extremely concerned at recent developments related to the peace process.”

The latest round of talks fell apart just days before the previously agreed deadline of 29 April following a surprise unity deal between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Hamas. The latter has refused to accept the terms of peace set out by the Middle East Quartet, which includes the EU, United Nations, United States and Russia. The terms include recognising the state of Israel, which Hamas refuses to do, the renunciation of violence and acceptance of all previous agreements with Israel.

Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq said at the start of May that dissolving its armed wing was “never mentioned” in the deal with the PLO, which aims to form a government of national consensus. The EU ministers expressed support for the deal but added: “Such a government should uphold the principle of non-violence, and remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement”.

In the text of the unity deal, signed in Gaza in April, the two sides expressed “the value of and their appreciation for the Egyptian role in overseeing the reconciliation agreement,” adding that Cairo’s involvement “will continue”.

High level talks between Egyptian and Palestinian officials are expected to get underway this year, however it remains unclear how Egypt will engage with Hamas given a March court ruling banning the activities of the Gaza rulers inside Egypt.

Fahmy will also give a lecture at “one of the largest research centres in the UK on the issues of disarmament” and hold a meeting with the British media “to explain the reality of the situation in Egypt” ahead of the presidential elections later this month.

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