Egypt: monthly report April 2024

Egyptian diplomacy pushes for a truce in Gaza. Throughout the month, Cairo hosted talks between Hamas and Israel but despite their efforts, mediators were unable to break the standoff between the parties, which remained entrenched in their positions. The latest rounds of negotiations were overshadowed by the potential Israeli offensive on Rafah and they have seen protesters criticizing the Egyptian government considered too soft towards Israel, resulting in several dozen arrests. Meanwhile, Egypt continued to bolster its humanitarian efforts and infrastructures by establishing new housing for refugees fleeing the Strip.

This month, Cairo found a strong partner in France, with Paris' top officials concerned with containing the effects of the war in Gaza. Following a meeting in Cairo among the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, and France, Egyptian and French Foreign Ministries issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of all the Israeli hostages held by Hamas. French Foreign Minister, Stephane Séjourné also announced Paris' intention to propose a new resolution at the Security Council to resolve the conflict.

The Iranian attack on Israel on April 12 further complicated Egyptian diplomatic efforts. Tehran's raid had an ambivalent effect on Cairo's geopolitical stance. On the one hand, it confirmed Egypt's pivotal role in regional balances, as demonstrated by Cairo's diplomatic efforts to prevent an escalation between Israel and Iran. In the hours following the assault, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a flurry of calls. Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's Foreign Minister, immediately reached out to his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, and shortly after, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Finally, Shoukry engaged with Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, who defended Iran's right to respond to Israeli attacks. On the other, the Iranian attack also highlighted Cairo's vulnerability to regional instability. Egypt had to suspend flights for about 12 hours, and authorities raised the national alert level to its maximum level.

Towards the end of the month, Cairo authorities prepared for an imminent ground offensive on Rafah. Al-Sisi emphasized the risks of renewed Israeli aggression in the Strip after meeting with Bahrain's Emir Hamad bin Isa. This message was reiterated by Shoukry during talks with Turkish counterpart Fidan in Cairo. Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to achieving a ceasefire and delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza and in a joint statement, they have asked the reopening of six border crossings between Gaza and Egypt for humanitarian aid delivery.

Concerning the economy, following the signing of the partnership agreement with the EU in March, Cairo also received support from the International Monetary Fund, which formally approved Egypt's new economic rescue plan. The agreement led to the disbursement of the first tranche of $820 million. The IMF's approval highlighted the impact of recent geopolitical crises on Egypt's economy, prompting urgent measures to safeguard Cairo's finances and increase aid. Meanwhile, the possibility of a new emergency gas supply program for the coming summer season is becoming increasingly likely. This scenario presents considerable challenges due to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, complicating gas imports from Gulf countries. There are also new challenges for wheat imports from Russia. Two Egyptian ships were detained in Russia with their cargo for about two weeks due to disagreements between Moscow's Ministry of Agriculture and wheat sellers, who complained about low selling prices and delayed payments since the start of the Ukraine war. The ships were released only after Egyptian government intervention. This is not the first time that disputes between the Russian government and wheat sellers have disrupted supplies to Egypt, prompting Cairo to consider turning to other sellers (primarily India). However, rebalancing Egypt's supply chain is becoming more complex due to current international conditions and Red Sea instability.

Relations between Egypt and Italy continue to strengthen. Following Prime Minister Meloni's visit leading the EU delegation last month, Minister of Enterprises Adolfo Urso visited Egypt for high-level meetings. Urso met with Minister of Communications Amr Talaat, Minister of Trade Ahmed Samir, and Minister of Petroleum Tarek el Molla to discuss new collaboration opportunities between Italian and Egyptian companies in these sectors. Urso also attended a renewable energy initiative where he met with Egypt’s Minister of Electricity, Mohamed Shaker. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Italian Space Agency and the Egyptian Space Agency for cooperation in the digital sector and its development.

Download the April 2024 report

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