Egypt is committed to augment longstanding relationship with Australia built on growing business ties, historic people-to-people links, strong institutional connections and cooperation on multilateral issues.
“History is a witness of our enduring relations established 70 years ago which surpassed all test of time”, Mohamed Khairat Mahmoud, Ambassador of Arab Republic of Egypt in Canberra told “Vibe Media” in an exclusive interview in his office on Monday.
Ambassador Khairat said Australia opened its embassy in Cairo in 1950, first in the entire Arab world but we have another connection even before – a shared military history as Australia deployed their soldiers in First World War and Second World War stationed in Egypt and over 4,000 Australian soldiers from these two wars are buried in Egypt.
“Egypt and Australia have maintained a positive and friendly relationship based on mutual respect, understanding and non-interference in internal matters. Strong people-to-people links and shared interest in the strategic affairs of the region are the hallmark of our ties”, he said.
Australia and Egypt are well engaged on a number of regional and international issues significant to both of them including close coordination on countering terrorism and violent extremism.
“Egypt and Australia work constructively on international security issues such as countering violent extremism and terrorism, disarmament and the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”, he added.
Egyptian Ambassador said Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, most prestigious and largest Islamic institution is a source of teachings of moderate Islam and it offers scholarships to Australian Muslim Scholars providing them an opportunity to learn the moderate teachings of Islam and equipped themselves with modern tools to answer and responds the propaganda and misinterpretations by the extremist groups. Currently numbers of Australian Muslim students are studying in Al-Azhar University.
He said both countries also collaborate on regional and international security issues. Both sides are maintaining good coordination at international fora and consult each other on international and regional issues like Syria, Libya and Yemen.
“Egypt is largest Arab country and also host Arab League that’s why it occupy a prominent position for Australia as a friend and partner politically, strategically and in terms of people to people relations”, he maintained adding Australia has a longstanding peacekeeping deployment in the Sinai to assist peace efforts across the region.
He was of the view that one of the major links between the two countries is strong Egyptian community living in Australia which is not only big in number but also very influential, well-educated and working in various areas like business, doctors and engineers. Recently two of the Egyptian origin politicians have been elected in Australian federal parliament.
“130,000 strong Egyptian Community in Australia is a bridge between our two countries bringing both nations further closer. That’s why our relations developing positively and both sides are committed to improve the ties in all domains”, Ambassador Khairat observed.
Business and Commercial Relations
Regarding trade relations Egyptian Ambassador expressed his dismay over low level of bilateral trade and expressed that both sides are working to increase the level of trade volume.
“Egypt and Australia have moderate trade links and current volume of bilateral trade is $600million which is not up to our expectations and doesn’t match our bilateral friendly historic ties. Until recently Egypt was buying 25 % of its wheat import from Australia but after some issues with Australian Wheat Board erupted”, he explained.
Several Australian companies are operating in Egypt in mining sector (gold) and Egyptian government is encouraging other Australian companies to invest in Egypt. Some Egyptian businessmen are also operating in Australia as well.
Egypt remains one of popular tourist destination for Australian visitors but due to Arab Spring and the events after Tourism in Egypt observed a sharp decline including from Australia.
Ambassador Khairat also blamed the regional instability and lack of information for tourism regression as number of people for lack of information mix the regional crisis especially in Syria and Yemen with the entire region. But he told that since 2017 number of Australian tourists visiting Egypt is increasing again.
Egypt and Australia are maintaining strong political ties since establishment of diplomatic relations.
In October 2017, Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove, visited Egypt to attend commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein and met with Egyptian President Sisi. Whereas, Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Minister for Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram visited Australia in September 2017.
“To build strong political relations between two friendly countries, Friends of Egypt parliamentary group has been established in Australian Parliament”, Ambassador Khairat concluded.