Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct.8 / Trend T. Konyayeva /
There are several serious reasons that hinder the restoration of relations between Egypt and Iran, and better relations between the two countries in the near future should not be expected in the near future, experts say.
"There has been a serious divergence of interests and orientations between Egypt and Iran. Even leaving aside the always present Arab/Persian and Sunni/Shia differences, there are at least several major blocks to good relations between Egypt and Iran," Philip Carl Salzman, Professor of Anthropology at McGill University and Adjunct Fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies wrote to Trend in e-mail.
Egypt and Iran, who broke off diplomatic relations in 1979, intend to resume the regular bilateral air transport. The appropriate agreement was signed on Sunday by leaders of civil aviation organizations of both countries. It replaces a similar agreement dated 1976.
The first Egyptian plane landed Wednesday in Tehran's international airport after more than thirty years. The plane was operated by Egypt-based Smart Aviation Company.
However, Tehran stated that while it is not thinking of re-establishing diplomatic relations with Egypt.
According to Salzman, Egypt was the leading nation in the Middle East for quite a long time, but now Iran claims this title. It is not congenial for Egypt to accept Iran's supremacy.
He said another hindrance is Iran's active interference in Egypt's near neighborhood.
"Gaza is a problem for Egypt (as well as for Israel). And Iran has been stirring it up. This is pretty close to a violation of Egypt's sovereignty, not to mention actual trespasses on Egyptian territory," he said.
Besides, he said, one should not forget Israel is Egypt's next door neighbor, and Egypt has reluctantly made peace with Israel. Meanwhile Iran constantly makes verbal attacks on Israel.
"I am sure that Egypt would prefer that Iran shut up about Israel. Remember, Egypt fought three costly wars against Israel, while distant Iran was not involved. So this is another case of unwelcome Iranian interference," Salzman said.
Egypt was one of the main participants of military confrontation with Israel during the Suez War in 1956-1957, the Six-Day War in 1967 and the War of Attrition that lasted from 1967 to 1970.
A preliminary Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement was reached in 1978 at the Camp David summit, and Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, who were presidents then, signed a final peace agreement between Israel and Egypt in 1979 in Washington, which was called the Camp David agreement.
According to Salzman, Cairo's position would be much closer to Tehran's position if there was radical regime change in Egypt.
"Even a less radical change of government might lead to a reassessment, but the question that would have to be answered is, 'What beneficial could Iran do for Egypt that would justify overcoming the existing (above-mentioned) obstacles?'," he said.
Egyptian political scientist on Middle East Affairs El Sayed Khani also said that relations between the two countries can not be restored until Tehran's officials say they intend to improve relations with Egypt.
"In this case we should not expect any moves from Cairo," Khani told Trend over telephone from Cairo," Khani, a political commentator for Egyptian newspaper al-Jumhuriyah, told Trend.
"Iran must turn its policy in the Middle East to a positive way: it must refuse to support groups whose activity leads to tension in the region, such as the Hamas in Gaza, and stop threatening the Gulf countries, particularly Bahrain and the UAE," he added.
According to him, against the background of Iran's policy in the region one should not expect improvement in relations between Cairo and Tehran.
"Resumption of flights between Cairo and Tehran will play an important role in developing economic, trade and cultural relations between the countries," Khani said. "But the restoration of diplomatic relations will depend on improvements in Tehran's policy in the Middle East, coordination of its actions in the region and holding consultations with other countries," he stressed.
Tehran and Cairo broke off diplomatic relations in the wake of Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979 after the then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat granted refuge to the deposed Shah of Iran, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi.
Tehran, in turn, was strongly against Egypt's peace agreement with Israel. A Tehran street is named after President Anwar Sadat's assassin, Egyptian army lieutenant Khalid al-Islambuli, who was executed in 1982. This is still considered a major obstacle in the restoration of relations between the nations.
According to Thomas W. Lippman, Adjunct senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Egypt has no incentive to restore relations with Iran because Iran supports Hezbollah and Hamas and continues its controversial nuclear program.
According to Hassan Hanizadeh, visits by officials of both countries do not improve relations between them, as there are still many uncertainties between Egypt and Iran.
"Change in Egypt's relations towards Iran depends on the U.S. in a positive or negative direction," Hanizadeh told Trend in email. "The Egyptian government during the reign of former President Anwar Sadat and current President Hosni Mubarak was and continues to be under influence of countries in the region and the world," he added.
He said a crisis in relations with Iran is advantageous for Egypt, because it has always considered Iran as its rival in the region and the world.
In addition, Egypt defends Israel's borders and ensures Palestine's security so that the U.S. and Western countries can provide it with substantial economic and security assistance.
"Egypt, after receiving this assistance, even with the best will, cannot improve relations with Iran," Hanizadeh said.
On the other hand, there is disagreement between the political and security forces over the issue of improving relations with Iran, Iranian expert said.
"Egyptian politicians are interested in establishing political ties with Iran, as it realizes Iran's impact and role in the Islamic world and the region," Hanizadeh said. "But the leadership of the security forces believes that the restoration of relations with Iran could harm the national security of Egypt."
He said that despite the resumption of flights between Tehran and Cairo, which can be considered a positive measure to eliminate the differences between Iran and Egypt, there is still a long way to go before there will be any improvement in relations between the two countries.
U. Sadikhova, T. Jafarov contributed to the article.