Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the newly elected head of Egypt’s 50-member constitution drafting committee, Amr Moussa, gave his impressions about post-June 30 Egypt.
The veteran Egyptian diplomat, who has variously served as Egyptian Ambassador to the UN, foreign minister, and Arab League Secretary-General emphasized that the country’s new constitution must adhere to the “Egyptian spirit of tolerance,” calling for the drafting of a document for the twenty-first century.
The Conference Party leader, who was a strong critic of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, also called on the new military-backed interim government to be given more time, particularly in terms of its foreign policy.
This interview has been edited for length.
Asharq Al-Awsat: Is the transitional roadmap being implemented in Egypt or is this just an empty slogan?
Amr Moussa: The roadmap’s implementation began with the constitution that was drafted by the 10-member constitutional committee and the subsequent start of the deliberations of the 50-member committee. Therefore, we have seen the implementation of a major and vital feature of the roadmap, in addition to the role being played by the interim president and the work of the government.
Q: You had a strong position on the previous constitution, criticizing its drafting process in particular as being weak. In light of the constitution amendment process, do you still agree?
Yes…it was weak because it was written in a hurry. This is why I believed that it was important to suspend it until we can get rid of the articles that are redundant or unnecessary.
Q: What articles in particular do you believe are redundant?
There are many articles…there are some things that should not even be mentioned because a constitution does not explain itself. Constitutional articles must be clear and in line with the Egyptian spirit of tolerance, rather than imposing things on society. The new constitution must also take into account that we are in the twenty-first century, it must protect women and all members of society, in addition to safeguarding human rights, the separation of powers, democracy, and elections. We must also take Article II of the constitution into account which focuses on the principles of Islamic Sharia law and what will be the main source of legislation in the country. Beyond this, the constitution must be characterized and based on consensus, and this is via substantive discussions between all sides of the political equation which will inevitably move Egypt forward.
Q: Let us turn to the performance of the military-backed interim government and particularly the Egyptian youth’s fears of what the future may hold. What’s your view of this?
We must take the Egyptian youth into account because they are our future; all the generations are eclipsed by the youth, whether we are talking in terms of constitutional principles, or political, democratic, and developmental principles and practices.
Q: What about those who say that until now the youth have not been given any definitive role in the new government?
A number of youth will be appointed in assistant ministerial positions in all ministries. I also suggest that they have a role and position in the governorates and municipalities. During my presidential campaign, I suggested that the municipalities should be for the youth, in addition to women, in order to build democracy on the grass-roots level.
Q: What’s your view of the transitional government’s performance to date?
I was of the view that a government should be concise and comprising of 15 ministers, not 37…however I support them and wish them all the best. At the same time as this we also want to see achievements being made on the ground.
Q: What’s your view of the criticisms that the new government has come under from regional and international parties for its treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood? Do you think this is a misunderstanding, particularly in light of those who claim that the Brotherhood used democracy to get into power and then abandoned all democratic norms?
This is all a matter of time and it will end with dialogue and the recognition of what happened to human rights under the former government. However I believe that we must adjust our foreign relations in line with the political changes in the country, while this must also accommodate all the variables that Egypt has witnessed following the January 25, 2011, and July 30, 2013, revolutions. We must work to support and improve political, economic, and security operations, in addition to the services needed by the Egyptian people. We must work to develop the country and combat and defeat terrorism wherever it may exist in Egypt, and that includes what is happening in the Sinai Peninsula.
Q: How do you think Egypt’s foreign ministry has performed since Mursi’s ouster, particularly in terms of responding to foreign interference in Egyptian affairs?
The Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs is the head of Egyptian diplomacy; he is responsible for all institutes and organizations relating to foreign policy. All of us—whether inside or outside government—are working to serve Egyptian foreign relations and diplomacy. The foreign minister is in charge of this, and I believe that we should give him time, particularly as he is facing tough challenges.
Q: As the former Arab League Secretary-General, what’s your view the US threat of a military strike on Syria? Is the deployment of US warships to the Mediterranean a means of increasing pressure on the Assad regime or a genuine threat?
This is an exercise in US muscle-flexing. As for America saying that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons, we must also recall what was said about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and how this was used as a pretext for military action…Therefore I think that we should wait for the results of the UN inspection team, and this should be submitted to the UN Security Council which will then determine what action should be taken, for example, punitive action and a call for the stop of the use of arms.
Q: By this, do you mean a UN Security Council-backed ceasefire?
The UN Security Council must first review the findings of the inspection team, so we cannot anticipate events. We must first see what the inspection team says, and then based on this study what we we will do.
Q: Some expect the US to carry out a number of military strikes with the intention of crippling the Syrian regime’s military capabilities. What’s your view?
I don’t think that the US is in a position to launch a new war.