On December 8, 2023, the Atlantic Council hosted an #ACFrontPage conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on the implications of the war in Gaza, Egypt’s leadership role in the region, and other challenges.

At the Front Page event, Shoukry argued that there is a global “double standard” for the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Shoukry argued that the way many countries—the United States included—are responding to the Israel-Hamas war is “dangerous” for the global order. He explained that in past global conflicts, the international community has pushed for a diplomatic or political resolution, but “in this case, it seems to be different,” he said.

He added that the Global South, in particular, is “looking very carefully at the progression of this conflict and is making comparisons,” pointing to “a feeling that there is a double standard in [the] application of values as [they relate to] different issues and conflicts in the world.” It is “a very dangerous situation because it can cause the unraveling of the world order,” he said.

Shoukry noted that while Egypt has taken in millions of refugees following other conflicts and crises, it does not support the “displacement” of Palestinian people to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula or elsewhere to make way for Israel to achieve its strategic goals. He drew on earlier justifications from Egypt that such a displacement would “liquidate” the Palestinian cause. He claimed that Palestinians themselves don’t want to leave Gaza, despite what they face, as they are “cognizant of the dangers” from displacement.

Amid calls from Iran for Egypt to unconditionally open its Rafah crossing into Gaza, Shoukry said that the crossing “has never been closed,” but rather it was “inoperable” after it was bombed several times. Since Rafah opened again, “we have tried as much as possible to allow the highest volume of assistance to enter,” said the foreign minister, pointing to difficulties caused by a checkpoint established allowing Israel to vet every truck of humanitarian aid. The aid that has managed to make it across is “absolutely a drop in the ocean for the needs of the Palestinians, and it’s a very dire situation that we are facing,” he said. “The volume of assistance… is quite deficient.”

Shoukry said that despite the challenges in Egypt’s relationship with Israel, the two countries have “a very solid foundation” in the form of a 1979 peace treaty. He added that Egypt is committed to “continuing to have a normal relationship” and that it has been “constantly” in discussion with Israel.

“It’s a matter of security of the region and stability,” Shoukry said, adding that he was concerned the conflict “might spread regionally or beyond” and that “other state or nonstate actors might become involved.” He also warned that “miscalculations or mistakes can happen that might lead to broadening the conflict.”

Shoukry warned that this is “not the right time to discuss” what should happen in Gaza after the conflict is resolved because “we have no idea what the contours of the situation in Gaza or in the region will be at the end of this conflict.” However, he reiterated that he is a “strong” supporter of the two-state solution, saying that it is “the only manner to resolve the conflict and should be implemented.” He said that Washington has the ability to “provide the incentives” to implement the two-state solution. The two-state solution, Shoukry said, “opens the doors for regional integration” and would help ensure a future for the Middle East that “is free of any animosity or hatred or revenge.”

An #ACFrontPage event

Atlantic Council Front Page is our premier live ideas platform for global leaders to discuss the defining challenges of our time. #ACFrontPage is a high-level event series featuring top newsmakers across multiple digital platforms. Harnessing the convening power and expertise of the Council’s sixteen Programs and Centers, #ACFrontPage leverages the Council’s capabilities in social media, press, and digital outreach to spotlight the world’s most prominent leaders and the most compelling ideas across sectors and engage new audiences eager for nonpartisan and constructive solutions to current global challenges. This widely promoted program features the Council’s most important guests and content serving as the highlight of our programming.

Featuring

H.E. Sameh Shoukry
Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt

In conversation with

Vivian Salama
National Security Correspondent
The Wall Street Journal 

Opening remarks by

Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative

The Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative (SMESI) provides policymakers fresh insights into core US national security interests by leveraging its expertise, networks, and on-the-ground programs to develop unique and holistic assessments on the future of the most pressing strategic, political, and security challenges and opportunities in the Middle East. 

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