Egypt will expand cooperation with Russia in the wake of a diplomatic spat with long-time ally the United States following president Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Saturday.

The foreign minister, in a interview with AFP, was speaking ahead of a visit on Wednesday by Russia’s defence and foreign ministers to discuss arms sales and political relations.

Fahmy said strained relations with Washington, which suspended some of its massive military aid to Cairo after the army toppled Morsi amid mass protests against him, had improved with Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit last Sunday.

But Egypt is taking a more “independent” tack and broadening its choices, he said.

“Independence is having choices. So the objective of this foreign policy is to provide Egypt with choices, more choices. So I’m not going to substitute. I’m going to add,” he said.

“I see this as a beginning of a new phase,” he said.

Kerry’s visit “left better sentiments here in Egypt,” Fahmy said of the visit just a day before Morsi went on trial for inciting the killings of protesters.

“It does not mean everything has been resolved. It does not mean there won’t be hiccups in the relationship in the future,” Fahmy said, speaking in his office on the banks of the Nile River.

Egypt had close ties with Russia until several years before president Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979, bringing in roughly $1.3 billion in yearly US military aid over the subsequent decades.

Turning to domestic issues, Fahmy said the deadly tumult that swept Egypt after the Morsi’s overthrow in July had decreased, but “it will take time for it to subside completely.”

More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have died in clashes and thousands been arrested in a harsh crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood following his overthrow.

Informal mediation attempts with the Muslim Brotherhood have failed because of the Islamists’ intransigence, Fahmy said.

“There have been attempts to engage Muslim Brotherhood leaders, yes,” Fahmy said, citing an attempt by intellectual Kamal Abul Magd to mediate between the government and the Islamists, which went nowhere.

“And there have been other informal attempts,” he added.

“We don’t yet see a clear commitment from the Muslim Brotherhood that they want to be part of a 21st century modern Egypt that is inclusive to all people, and that can be done peacefully,” he said.

For now, a 50-member panel appointed by the interim government is preparing a new constitution, which could possibly be put to a referendum next month, paving the way for parliamentary and presidential elections.

The new constitution could stipulate whether groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, whose activities have been banned, would be able to contest the parliamentary elections hopefully to be held in the spring, Fahmy said.

“If the constitution… lays down rules under which the (Muslim Brotherhood’s) Freedom and Justice Party would be allowed to run, they would be allowed to run,” he said.

In the past, religious parties had been banned from elections, but the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups circumvented that by registering parties with vague platforms.

The military, from which every president before Morsi has come, has signalled it wants to retain broad privileges in the new constitution.

Fahmy said he could not predict the military’s powers in the new constitution

“But there is clearly a trend, there is a commitment, not only a trend, that this would be a civilian constitution. It is neither a theocratic nor a military state,” he said.

In both parliamentary and the presidential elections that followed the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Brotherhood emerged victorious.

But Morsi’s one year in power turned many against the Islamists, who were accused of monopolising government and mismanaging the economy. Millions took to the streets demanding Morsi’s resignation before the military stepped in.

source: ahram online