World / Middle East

China-Egypt ties to remain firm

By Li Xiaokun and Zhao Shengnan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-06-26 07:07

Beijing congratulated Egypt's president-elect Mohammed Morsi on Monday, saying China expects to continue its longstanding friendly ties with Egypt under the new leadership.

China-Egypt ties to remain firm

A supporter of Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy kisses his picture during a celebration of his victory at the election at Tahrir Square in Cairo June 24, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

The message came hours after the announcement that Morsi would be the first Islamist elected president of the Arab world's most populous nation on Sunday.

Observers said the new Egyptian leader, who doesn't approve of former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak's pro-West foreign policies, may adjust Egypt's diplomatic strategies but can hardly cancel them.

Beijing's relations with Cairo will not be affected, they said.

"China congratulates Mr Morsi on being elected president of Egypt. China respects the independent choice of the Egyptian people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news conference.

"We believe that Egyptians, under the leadership of President Morsi, will make greater achievements on the road of national construction.

"China would like to work with Egypt to continue to deepen our longstanding friendship," he said.

Morsi, the country's first elected leader since a popular uprising ousted Mubarak last year, won 51.73 percent of the vote against former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, widely seen as the military's candidate. Morsi has resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood to serve as the "president of all Egyptians".

In a televised speech to the nation late on Sunday, he said he would respect all international agreements and form balanced relations with all international forces.

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Morsi also said in an interview with Iran's Fars News Agency on Monday that he was looking to expand ties with Teheran to create a strategic "balance" in the region.

"This will create a balance of pressure in the region, and this is part of my program," he was quoted by Fars as saying.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Egyptian people on Sunday for the peaceful atmosphere of the elections.

US President Barack Obama pledged his country's support for Egypt's transition to democracy.

Obama called Shafiq to encourage him to keep supporting the democratic process "and working to unify the Egyptian people".

Hong Lin, a commentator of China Central Television, said in a news program that for Western countries used to having close ties to the Egyptian military, especially for the US and Israel, the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood is "not good news".

"But the fact that it is Morsi who won the election is the best news among the bad possibilities," said Hong, the commentator.

Morsi's background as a parliament member and his education in the US have made him someone "from the Muslim Brotherhood who can be accepted by the West", he said.

The Islamic Brotherhood may adjust Egypt's diplomatic policies but can hardly cancel them, said Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.

The West is still "waiting and seeing" developments in Egypt given that the country is experiencing a major period of transition, said Li Guofu, director of the Center of Middle East Studies of the same institute.

"The West is likely to guide Egypt's new leadership to the direction it wants through keeping in touch and communication with the Muslim Brotherhood."

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood may also engage in fine-turning Egyptian-Israeli ties, especially regarding the issue of the Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip, which borders on Egypt, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is looking forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries.

The Palestine Liberation Organization appreciated "the democratic Egyptian choice", adding that the Muslim Brotherhood's victory would not change Egypt's position regarding the Palestinian cause.

Hamas, the Islamic party that rules the Gaza Strip, said on Sunday that Morsi's election would bolster the armed resistance against the Israeli occupation.

However, since the military has stripped the office of president of most of its powers, and Egypt's Supreme Court earlier dissolved the country's Islamist-led parliament, Morsi hasn't gained enough power to implement the foreign policies, Li said.

"Morsi's unclear administrative power makes forming his cabinet difficult, and his priority now should be to assure Egyptians that he can bring inclusive stability and development," he said.

Despite looming clashes between the military and the Brotherhood, both sides may keep the scale of conflicts limited due to Egyptians' strong desire for stability, said An Huihou, former Chinese ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Algeria.

The Washington Post warned on Sunday that Egypt's political situation was far from resolved even though an election winner had been declared.

"Whether that development becomes a foundation to build on or a prelude to further destabilization" in Egypt "will depend on whether the military and Islamists can find a modus vivendi based on democratic principles", it said.

The newspaper called on the US to wield its influence over Egypt's military - which receives more than $1 billion in US aid each year - to ensure that Morsi is given "full governing power".

"Egypt still has a chance to complete a democratic transition, but it will require more mature political behavior by all sides," the article concluded.

"Strong encouragement by the United States - particularly to the recalcitrant generals of the old order - can help."

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Xinhua and AFP contributed to this story.

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