Cairo and Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Egyptian government has slammed Washington’s decision not to invite it to an American–African summit to be held in the US capital later this year, calling the decision “erroneous and shortsighted.”
The White House issued a statement on Tuesday evening inviting 47 African heads of state to a US–Africa Leaders Summit to be held in Washington DC on August 5 and 6, 2014.
The summit will discuss the strengthening of ties and the development of trade and investment between the US and African states, as well as highlighting security and democracy issues across the continent.
The invitation carries historic significance because this is the first time such a large number of African leaders have been invited to Washington at the same time for a single meeting.
White House Spokesman Jay Carney said “the president is pleased to welcome the leaders of the African continent in the capital in order to strengthen ties with one of the most dynamic regions in the world.”
The invitation included the head of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, but excluded Egypt, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Madagascar.
The White House said the exclusion was because invitations were not extended to leaders of states “who do not have good relations with the US, or those whose membership had been suspended by the AU [the African Union].”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a spokesman at the US Embassy in Cairo, Mufid Diek, confirmed that the reason for the decision was the suspension of Egypt’s membership in the AU.
A source at the US State Department said: “Diplomatic norms mean that African Union rules are implemented when a summit is held between a certain state and the AU.”
However, other diplomatic sources said the exclusion has caused surprise, because the White House also invited Morocco, which is not a member of the organization.
Observers said Washington was expected to retract the decision, adding that the US fears a loss of influence in Egypt.
The African Union suspended Egypt’s membership following the ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi, on July 3, 2013. The removal of Mursi also led to a cooling in relations between the US and Egypt, the most important example of which was the partial suspension by Washington of military and economic aid to Egypt in October last year, which amounted to 1.55 billion US dollars annually.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Ambassador Badr Abdelati, expressed his country’s shock at “the content of the statement, which indicated that Egypt would not be invited to attend the US–African summit.”
Abdelati said the exclusion was puzzling because the summit “was not [to be] held under the framework of the AU, but is a summit between the US and African states,” and because Egypt recently participated in similar meetings in a number of Western capitals.