The Arab and regional arena is witnessing several events that followed the Arab Spring revolutions. New parties appeared on the scene and tried to take control by force and violence, and they are represented in organised armed and radical groups that serve regional and international parties in attempts to destabilise the region.
The latest of these events was Iran’s nuclear agreement, which is expected to change the balance of power in the Middle East and reshape the political map, according to many observers.
To understand the developments of these situations and their impact on the situation in Egypt and the Middle East, Daily News Egypt met with one of the most prominent diplomats in the Arab world; Amr Moussa, Secretary General League of Arab States, Chairman of the fifty member Committee drafting the constitution, and former Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In his interview with Daily News Egypt, Amr Moussa opens all the thorny files witnessed by Egypt and the region; he praises establishment of a joint Arab force, announces reservations regarding the Iran’s nuclear agreement. He also explains his position from the collective trials of Muslim Brotherhood members in addition to his evaluation of the general scene in Egypt and the role of political parties in the next parliament.
First, how do you evaluate the terrorist attacks and the big number of terrorists in Sinai?
In the beginning, I want to say that the latest attacks on Sinai despicable, carried out by people who tarnish the name and faith of Islam, but they will not achieve any strategic goals because of the strong an effective work our armed forces is doing there.
As for the numbers, I believe the former regime encouraged this infiltration and incursion in Sinai by leniency and tolerance of a large number of tunnels used to smuggle everything; eve people and guns, which breaches the sovereignty and threatens the security of the state.
In your opinion, what is the reason behind targeting the prosecutor general and threatening to assassinate state figures?
The purpose of assassinating the prosecutor general was to scare and terrorise the people and cause disorder within the state organs and an announcement that terrorism is moving towards hunting state personalities, not just random acts of violence or sabotage of vital facilities.
What about reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?
How can we speak of reconciliation when it has no grounds? What about the blood that has not yet dried? What about the people’s sense of security? What about legitimacy? What about the sovereignty of the state? People who seek reconciliation do not commit such horrible crimes. These crimes should be faced before any talks of reconciliation.
What do you think of the new anti-terrorism law, specifically Article 33 regarding publishing and freedom of the press?
No one is denying the media’s right to freedom of publication and expression, and freedom of information, but I believe the article was drafted in this manner due to the exceptional circumstances experienced by the state in its war against terrorism. I also believe that the Prime Minister will review it again, but I will not comment on the law itself, the parliament has the final word.
What about the demonstrations law and the activists imprisoned because of that law?
I was very optimistic when I heard what President Al-Sisi said of issuing a presidential pardon and the release of many of the youth, and I hope releases extend to the young revolutionists and political activists as appropriate. This would be a breakthrough in the community.
How do you follow the collective trials of Brotherhood members? What is the image of these trials in the West?
Honestly, the world and the West do not sympathise with the collective death sentences, and the Western mind does not understand them. But in reality, these sentences were not applied collectively, and so far we have not seen hundreds of death sentences carried out collectively, not even tens of them. This will not happen, because for instance when the Qena and Minya courts issued death sentences for more than 200 people and their papers were sent to the Grand Mufti, he only approved 37 of them. Among these 37 death sentences, 30 were in absentia, leaving only seven actual executions. I believe that no death sentences were carried out in large numbers except in for the Arab Sharkas Cell case, when six people were executed. According to the law, the Prosecutor General may directly appeal the sentence and bring it in front of the court of cassation, which means that these death sentences are pending the decision of the Court of Cassation, whether with rejection or support.
This takes us to the prompt justice highlighted by President Al-Sisi after the Prosecutor General was killed. What are your comments on that?
Before being prompt, justice has to be applied first, and I assert that justice must be served. I believe that now is not the time for prompt justice, because it means that the Court of Cassation only reviews the sentence once after its rendering, and doesn’t refer it to any other circuit, and issues its decision, whether in rejection or support of the sentence.
However, it was customary for the Court of Cassation sentence to then refer it to a different circuit, and whether that circuit approved the sentence, or ruled otherwise, it is returned to the Court of Cassation to review it and then issue its final ruling. But this would all be cancelled by such “prompt justice” as pointed out. I believe there is another way for justice to be prompt that does not cancel the mentioned process, which is speeding up the procedures when the Court of Cassation refers the sentence to another circuit, by minimising the timeframe so as not to take as much time as it used to take. There remains a very important point, that the Egyptian media must be more active in explaining the reality of these trials and their minute details to the world, just as I have done, in order to improve the negative mental image that the world has taken on the progress of these trials.
The president’s decision to give himself the right to dismissal of heads of independent bodies such as the Central Auditing Agency caused talks among some political circles about the seriousness of the legislative power remaining in the hands of the president, what do you think of this?
Article 216 provides that the president appoints the heads of these entities for one or two periods maximum, and stated that they should not be dismissed from their positions except in specific cases prescribed by law.
So the rule is non dismissal, and the cases prescribed by law are an exception, and exceptions should not be expanded. The law will certainly determine the presidents powers in these exceptions, in protection of the spirit of the constitution, which helps the stability and independence of these entities so that they may be able to fight corruption without any fear.
What will happen to the 200 law issued by Al-Sisi and Adly Mansour under the provisions of article 156 of the Constitution to compel the next parliament to review and approve all decisions and laws passed before parliament was held in 15 days only, which is practically impossible? What is the solution, then?
When this article was drafted, it was in the framework of a road map that started with the parliamentary elections, the the presidential elections. But the presidential elections were brought forward which prolonged the period prior to the convening of Parliament, which saw as you said, many Laws, which was not expected.
The solution is for the parliament to begin discussing them after its first session. This is a must. The parliament may however extend the period of review after getting a majority approval. But such extension must remain within the framework and spirit of the constitution regarding the promptness.
Some people are afraid that the parliament would pass all these laws at once, what do you think about that?
I do not think this is going to happen.
Regarding the parliament and the parliamentary elections, what do you think of calls for a unified list in parliamentary elections to be a political backup to the president?
First, I would like to say that, as well as others, I have long called for a unification of political parties of similar ideologies, but all our attempts in this matter have failed, let alone bringing together all the different parties. The unified list is impossible; it is nothing beyond slogans and cheers. As for it being a political supporter to the president, the president has no political party, and will not found one because the constitution does not allow it, but he will be surrounded by national forces and movements that do not work to serve foreign agendas.
What will the next parliament look like, and what are the most important groups that will be effective?
Based on what’s happening on the ground, I expect there to be three groups; a rightist group with the authority, a religious group, and a civilian intermediary group. I hope they compete with honour, there is no need for the hassle of false advertising, and I support the civilian intermediary group, because I very much trust their patriotism, and they are the closest to the Egyptian street.
It is said that Brotherhood members may sneak in through Al-Nour party list or other lists, what do you think of that?
I have no fear of Brotherhood members sneaking into parliament, and they will not be more than a few members at the most. I trust in the choices of the Egyptian people and even of they do sneak in, let it be, they will reveal their true identities and the parliament would not allow them to have any negative effect that might confuse the public scene in Egypt.
Do you think Islamic politicians will have a majority in the next parliament at the expense on the other parties?
Now the people know that Egypt has to cross this dark tunnel in which it fell, and the civil state must respect the constitution, and I believe that the people will only choose representations who can achieve this target, not ones who only chant slogans in the name of religion.
Regarding the economy, how do you evaluate the economic performance of President Al-Sisi over this year?
What does the Egyptian Economy need to compete against other rising economies?
How will the opening of the New Suez Canal affect Egypt’s economy and its citizen?
Now to the thorny topic of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). What do you think of the initial agreement signed by Al-Sisi?
Now to the foreign affairs, and we begin with Iran’s nuclear file.
How do you read Iran’s nuclear agreement?
I have congratulated Iran and the other parties on reaching this agreement, but the agreement alone is not enough for the region to enter into a new security system, because there is another country with nuclear arsenal, Israel. So why is Israel’s nuclear file not dealt with too?
I was always against the major countries regarding Iran’s nuclear project, as it is necessary to bring forward Israel’s nuclear file as well, and to announce clearly that there should be no nuclear weapons in the middle east, not just Iran.
Some of the Gulf States objected to this agreement, what will the relations in the region be like?
Under this agreement, Iran will be liberated from many sanctions, so Iran has to make Good use of this and build new and positive relations with neighbouring countries and the region as a whole. These relations should be based on cooperation in all fields, whether commercial or industrial.
Iran should also avoid the sectarian policy so that the region would be stable and the tension in the relation between the neighbours would be eased.
Iran should understand that the security of the Gulf states, and all the Arab states, is a redline, and Operation “Decisive Storm” is a clear message in this regard.
So, what do yo think of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran?
It should be an Arab relations with Iran not an individual relationship, because Iran uses some of its policies in provoking tension in the Arab region. The Arab foreign policies should be aligned in their relation with Iran.
Has the policies of Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, succeeded in this agreement?
Yes, Javad Zarif has succeeded, he is a first class diplomat, which is evident by his success in negotiating with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the biggest six countries in the world and reaching this agreement, with which the Iranian people are happy.
What is the solution for the Syrian crisis?
The solution lies in the outcome of the 1st Geneva conference, which recommended forming a government of national unity or a coalition government, which is what the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura. That government would bring together all the components of the Syrian people and their different sects in one clear and effective authority.
So are you with Assad’s remain or departure?
This issue is left to the Syrian people, especially that there are countries that support him; Russia and Iran, and others that want him gone; Like KSA and Turkey, while the position of the USA is still unclear in my opinion.
What is your vision for ending the crisis in Yemen?
Yemen has to stand united, and I demand all foreign interferences of neighboring countries under the pretext of supporting a sectarian policy, to stop. I call upon all Yemeni parties and leaderships, with all their sects, to think only of Yemen not of any other state just because they have a similar ideology. Yemen cannot bear anymore of these sorts of conspiracies. Yemen has to establish positive and beneficial relationship with its largest neighbor Saudi Arabia.
I met with a delegation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s supporters, and I met Mahfouz Bahah, the designated Yemeni Prime Minister and I discussed with each party ways to reach a solution for this crisis. Foreign interferences must stop, as well as what is called the Sunni-Shiite conflict, it is an evil, and if Yemen falls for it, it will never rise again.
What about Operation ‘Decisive Storm’ and the Arab alliance?
Operation ‘Decisive Storm’ came a natural response to another regional intervention by Iran. Iran was mistaken, especially when Qasem Soleimani stated that Iran is in control of the situation in Sanaa. This statement led to a lot of anger in the Arab countries, so operation ‘Decisive Storm’ was necessary under the leadership of Saudi Arabia.
And what is the solution?
I call upon all the Arab states to be extremely cautious in their foreign political policies with the neighbouring countries, and to be aware of the conspiracies against them, which aim to drain their powers. This is necessary in order to prevent a war that will destroy everything.
What about the situation in Libya?
The situation in Libya is very unfortunate, and somewhat mysterious. I hope Bernardino León, the United Nations Special Representative to Libya, succeeds in forming a coalition government, and I hope Libya starts containing the game because it is getting out of hand.
but the terrorist organisations should not be allowed, they not only seek to occupy Libya, but to destroy the neighbouring countries as well, but this will not happen. But these organisations may break many laws if they are not stopped soon.
How do you follow Greece’s crisis with the European Union?
I met with several former Greek ministers and parliament members, and they all asserted that they are preparing for a difficult and arduous stage of the implementation of the agreement accepted by the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the leaders of the EU, the World bank and The International Monetary Fund.
Do you expect Greece to commit to the provisions of the agreement?
Yes, I do. They are determined on this, and eager to get the country out of this difficult situation.