Egypt’s state news agency (MENA) has reported that President Mohamed Morsi will visit Iran to attend the Non-Aligned Movement meetings on August 30. Morsi’s visit will be the first such visit by an Egyptian head of state to Tehran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
The agency quoted sources at the Egyptian presidency as saying on Saturday that Morsi “will participate in the summit” on his way back from China.
The decision follows an invitation hand-delivered to Morsi nearly two weeks ago in Cairo by Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghaei.
Egypt is the current head of the Non-Aligned Movement, founded during the Cold War to advocate the causes of the developing world. It is set to hand over the chairmanship to Iran in the Tehran meeting.
Since Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising last year, Egypt and Iran have signalled interest in renewing ties severed more than 30 years ago after Iran’s revolution that established the Islamic Republic and Egypt’s recognition of Israel.
Iran hailed Morsi’s victory as an “Islamic Awakening”, while Morsi himself is striving to reassure Egypt’s western allies wary at the prospect of Islamist rule, and Gulf states that are deeply suspicious of Iranian influence.
Richard Murphy, a former US assistant Secretary of State, has said that the US will likely not be pleased if Egyptian-Iranian relations are restored.
“America has tried along with Europe to forge a system of isolation of Iran and avoid giving any prestige to the regime in Iran,” Murphy said. “And [Iran’s] ability to host this Non-Aligned conference does add to its image internationally and that won’t make America happy.”
Egypt’s formal recognition of Israel and Iran’s revolution led in 1980 to the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries, among the biggest and most influential in the Middle East. They currently have reciprocal interest sections, but not at ambassadorial level.
In a related item, the Washington Times quoted diplomatic sources as saying Ahmadinejad and Morsi will meet on the sidelines of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will open at the UN Headquarters in New York on September 18.
In addition, the paper reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited U.S. President Barack Obama to join Iranian and Egyptian presidents at a VIP lunch on September 25, when the general debate will open.
Speaking to the Persian service of the Fars News Agency on Saturday, Mohammad Reza Forqani, the director of the international affairs section of the Presidential Office, dismissed the Times report.