CAIRO — Egypt is seeking international support for its bid for nonpermanent membership in the UN Security Council, and aims to drum up votes to get the North African seat for 2016-17 in elections due in October 2015.
Egyptian foreign policy circles on the African, Asian, European and Arab levels are taking part in this intense diplomatic campaign. The Foreign Ministry issued a booklet on Cairo’s activities and policies in the areas of international peace and security, outlining Egypt’s role in issues pertaining to the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian one.
The booklet, distributed by Egypt’s representatives during the meetings of the UN General Assembly in September, expresses its support for all UN efforts to establish peace in conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East, and mentions Egypt’s participation in 37 peacekeeping missions with 2,659 Egyptian soldiers and officers.
In addition to Egypt’s role in striving for international peace and security, the campaign also focuses on the development efforts that Egypt continuously calls for through its work under the umbrella of the UN, the African Union (AU) and the Arab League.
Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati, the spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, told Al-Monitor that Egypt deserves the seat at the Security Council. “Cairo has always been an active actor in international efforts related to peace and security — not only on the political level, as we also participated in peacekeeping missions in conflict zones,” he said.
Abdel Ati said Egypt has “clear support from a number of important and influential countries,” without elaborating which ones. He added, “The coming period will witness the launch of several movements to confirm the importance of the Egyptian candidature as well as Egypt's regional role in achieving UN goals.”
Egypt’s stated intention to run for the UN Security Council comes five months after it resumed its activities in the AU — a year after the African Peace and Security Council suspended Egypt following the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013.
Abdel Ati said, “Egypt will present its candidacy to represent North African countries [at the UN] during the upcoming African summit that will be held in June , prior to the Security Council elections." He stressed, "There is strong support for the candidacy of Egypt from the African group at the UN.”
It is worth noting that Egypt has held a nonpermanent seat at the UN Security Council four times: 1949-50, 1961-62, 1984-85 and 1996-97.
A diplomatic source participating in the campaign who wished not to be named told Al-Monitor, “Our determination and the interest of the Egyptian government for a seat at the Security Council are linked to Egyptian national security, in light of the external threats haunting Egypt, especially the Libyan and Palestinian issues.”
“[President Abdel Fattah al-] Sisi’s administration is attempting to strongly return to the international political scene following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s fight against terrorism, which needs the support of the international community,” he added.
The diplomat said Egypt is among the nations calling for reform of the UN Security Council, adding that Africa deserves a permanent seat.
“We still look forward to reforms to expand the membership in the Security Council. It is unreasonable for the African continent not to be a permanent member in light of its rising importance and growth on the international scene,” he added.
Observers note that Egypt's success in obtaining this seat would be a major victory for Egyptian diplomacy and enhance Cairo’s relations with regional powers.
Hassan Haridy, Egypt’s former UN ambassador, told Al-Monitor, “Several positive indicators show that it will not be hard to get the seat. The government has now garnered strong international support. Cairo’s presence in the Security Council will add to both the Arab and African dimensions, as all problems that worry Arab countries will be presented, namely the threat of armed jihadist groups to Arab security.”
Haridy ruled out the possibility that “the delayed implementation of the road map and the parliamentary elections — both of which aim to restore the democratic path in Egypt — will affect foreign support for Egypt’s candidacy.”
"There is clear international recognition and support," he said, adding, "Holding the parliamentary elections before the voting session at the UN General Assembly will surely have a positive impact.”
Egypt's accession to the UN Security Council remains among the most important political goals for Sisi’s administration. The Egyptian government has been trying to open up to the world and create a new regional and international role, including building strategic alliances to deal with the pressing regional security issues.