Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Amr Moussa, one of the main leader’s of Egypt’s opposition National Salvation Front (NSF), spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Egypt, the Mursi government, and the Syrian crisis.
A senior Egyptian political and diplomat, Moussa previously served as Secretary-General of the Arab League. He also served as Egypt’s Foreign Minister under the Mubarak regime; he stood in the post-revolutionary Egyptian presidential elections, but lost out to Mohamed Mursi.
Asharq Al-Awsat: How do you view the current situation in Egypt and the Arab World>?
Amr Moussa: Egypt is in a state of turmoil today, while the rest of the Arab world finds itself in a state of uncertainty. In Egypt, we are passing through a transitional stage whose features are indistinct. I believe that those drawing up maps and writing history in the west are preparing to draw up a new map for the Middle East, and a new chapter in its history. This was expected, particularly with the root changes that have taken place in the Arab world. However the problem is the international variables, particularly given Egypt’s absence from the international scene owing to its preoccupation with its own internal crises. Egypt is not in a state of political health granting it the same level of influence [as before]. This is the reason for my distress at this stage.
Q: How can we get out of this state of turmoil in Egypt, not to mention the uncertain state that the rest of the Arab world is experiencing?
Firstly, I call on the government to review the manner in which it is ruling Egypt. The situation today is completely different than when the Muslim Brotherhood movement was first launched; therefore the simple way in which they are ruling, their lack of a vision for the future, and the huge inconsistencies between the government’s day-to-day decisions, has created this unease in Egypt. This situation needs to be completely reviewed in order to avoid witnessing a similar response to that faced by the former regime.
Q: You are one of the leading figures of the Egyptian opposition, and the pro-government supporters are of the view that the NSF is seeking to conspire against the government, describing it as the Jabhat Al-Kharrab (National Destruction Front)?
We are now passing through a transitional phase that is filled with over-the-top rhetoric, They have put forward the terns faloul (remnants of the former regime) and Jabhat Al-Kharrab. However all such discourse is completely unnecessary. The NSF is an opposition front, and in the democratic system the opposition forms part of the legitimacy of the government; at least, those governments that believe in democracy and genuinely practices this. Only when this is understood can there be any development in terms of mutual respect and mutual understanding. There must be new perspectives regarding working together. We have called for the formation of a national unity government but this was not implemented. We called for a transitional government, and this did not happen. We requested guarantees in terms of the elections, and this also did not materialize, however there is a chance that we could make some progress on this last issue.
Q: What progress has there been in terms of guarantees for the NSF to participate in the forthcoming elections?
As long as the elections are postponed, all the previous benefits for this are non-existent. We will wait and see what guarantees there are for the forthcoming elections. Everybody must be aware that participation is normal; boycott is the exception. Boycotting the elections is not out of stubbornness, but there are reasons for this, and we must resolve these reasons.
Q: Observers have begun to see a change in the opposition’s position towards participating in the forthcoming elections. Has this issue been resolved?
I am of the view that there is a move towards participating in the elections, however we have not discussed or decided on any position. I see that a large number of parties have begun to call for participating in the elections and obtaining guarantees [from the government].
Q: Some Egyptians are suspicious about the timing of the elections, and whether these will take place on time. What’s your view of this?
It is true that this suspicion is present, however we are operating on the basis that the elections will take place some time in the future, over the next months, therefore the political parties must prepare for this. The government must also prepare for this, in terms of granting the required guarantees.
Q: Some politicians have accused President Mursi of being stubborn and unable to understand what Egypt and the Egyptian people need today, claiming that this is one of the reasons behind the deteriorating living conditions in Egypt. Do you think president Mursi is intransigent?
I think this is true. If the situation remains the same, along with the continuation of this policy of stubbornness, and in light of the deteriorating economic conditions, then international loans and grant will be of no use to Egypt. We need an economic plan for the future, relying on Egypt’s abundant economic capabilities. However such figures are not participating in government, nor is the government paying any attention to them.
Q: Do you think that president Mursi will call, once again, for national dialogue, with the Egyptian opposition?
It is not a question of dialogue. We previously put forward the idea of forming a national unity government, which the NSF and other members of the opposition would be a part of. Therefore, the issue is not to conduct dialogue for the sake of dialogue; this dialogue must lead to participation in the decision-making process.
Q: You recently visited Lebanon and talked about the unrest that is dominating the Arab scene. Would you say that this unrest includes Beirut?
In Lebanon, the scene is one of mobilization due to the situation in Syria, particularly following the influx of Syrian refugees and the direct impact that the developments in Syria has on the Lebanese scene. I believe that this also applies to Jordan and Iraq as well.
Q: How much impact is the Syrian crisis having on Lebanon?
The impact has gone beyond a state of vulnerability to one of distress; Lebanon’s security situation is in danger, and if there is division in Syria—God forbid—then there will also be division in Lebanon at the same time.
Q: Is there is a solution to the Syrian crisis on the horizon?
I think we are approaching an international deal—a US-Russia deal—within the framework of internal Syrian negotiations between the government and the opposition, Ultimately any solution would be unlikely to include the presence or survival of president Assad. We must also not forget that there are other important dimensions to the crisis, such as Iran, the Sunni-Shiite dimension, as well as other issues relating to Palestinian and Israel. These are huge problems surrounding the Syrian crisis. I also believe that the Syrian crisis is not confined to the so-called Arab Spring phenomenon, and the situation will ultimately end with the redrawing of the regional map.
Q: In your view, how will the regional map be redrawn?
What is happening is the return of the Sykes-Picot Agreement once more, and this is very dangerous, particularly as no Palestinian state has been established yet. This is also taking place at a time when Egypt is internationally absent due to its own preoccupations with its domestic transition, while we are also witnessing regional divisions along sectarian lines and territorial weakness. All of this is very dangerous. Therefore all of these issues are having a negative impact, pushing the region towards danger; there is also a worrying security and economic situation.
Q: Is there any possibility of a tripartite alliance between Egypt, Iran, and Tukrey?
Such an alliance is not likely. Firstly, Turkey and Iran will not ally; they are like oil and water. Turkey has a completely different vision than that of Iran. Secondly, Egypt is in a state of weakness and absence, it cannot get involved in any regional games, while Iran has baggage in terms of its relations with the Arab World, West, and Russia. This is not to mention the Shi’ite dimension and other issues that will not be resolved by the formation of a tripartite alliance, despite all the talk about this.
Q: How would you rate the manner in which the Arabs have dealt with the Syrian crisis?
The Arabs have been preoccupied with the Syrian issue in terms of the Syrian revolution and the regime, rather than from a strategic point of view. Unfortunately they have left this to Russia, the US, and Iran.