By Amira El-Fekki and Toqa Ezzidin
The aftermath of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s first visit to the UK, which concluded this weekend, was controversial, due to concerns expressed by Britain and the US, claiming recent confirmations that the Russian Airbus A321 was downed by Sinai-based militants.
The significance of Al-Sisi’s trip to London stems from the nearly 13-year suspended visit to the UK. “Additionally, the UK is important for Egypt due to its influence on international policies and its leading position in the EU, as well as the power of veto it hold in the UN Security Council,” according to international relations expert at the American University in Cairo Noha Bakr.
In her analysis of Egyptian-UK relations, Bakr mentioned that the UK is Egypt’s largest investor at $25bn and a trade volume of which Egypt benefits with $481m. Further, she noted that it provides Egypt with one million tourists per year, in addition to an Egyptian community living in the UK, estimated at 200,000.
“But the UK did not make such a fuss when their tourists were shot dead at a Tunisian beach, which necessarily raises question marks on this attitude,” Bakr stated.
Following Egyptian officials’ criticism of what they described as “Britain’s hasty decision” to suspend its flights to the city of Sharm El-Sheikh and talks about the potential harm to the tourism industry from similar actions by other countries, British media reports began suggesting that Prime Minister David Cameron “promised” Al-Sisi that the UK government will tighten control on Muslim Brotherhood activities.
According to a report published by The Guardian, the UK is being subjected to severe pressure by the UAE, an ally of post-30 June Egypt, which expressed its non-satisfaction with the UK’s “support” of the Brotherhood by threatening to “block billion-pound arms deals with the UK, stop inward investment and cut intelligence cooperation if Cameron did not act against the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Nonetheless, a spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Daily News Egypt Saturday that “Cameron’s claims on potential ‘curbing’ of the Brotherhood in the UK shall not be taken seriously”.
She supported her claims by arguing that the UK never really restricted or scaled down the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities, and a report issued last year said the UK attempting to delve into the Brotherhood’s activities yielded “no results whatsoever,” she added.
While the Brotherhood spokesperson suggested that Cameron made such claims to appease the situation while Al-Sisi was in the UK, Bakr argues that the Muslim Brotherhood are stakeholders in the West, and are still lobbying for their political and economic interests.
“Let me also say that Egypt had not been successful in seeking to label the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist entity, failing to provide enough evidence between the group and acts of terrorism,” Bakr added.
Earlier this month, an Egyptian appeals court decided to suspend the decision of outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
While the Guardian mentioned that Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria have complained that London has become a main base to the outlawed group, which started in Egypt and extended around the world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s relations have already faced challenges regarding the Syrian crisis, and also “because the Saudis have mobilised Sunni groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, in its fight against the Houthis in Yemen,” Bakr added.
“What is important for Egypt now is to restore its strategic regional position and take a leading role in the Palestinian crisis and the Libyan file as well,” Bakr concluded.