InterviewsPolitics & News

Amre Moussa Unveils: Saudi’s Insistence on Arab Initiative Before Ties with Israel

Saudi Arabia's Bold Transformation under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Grabs World's Gaze: Amre Moussa

By Taha Sakr and Mohamed Samir

Amre Moussa, an iconic figure in international diplomacy, has left an indelible mark on the Arab world through his extensive career and unwavering commitment to peace and cooperation. Born in Cairo in 1936, Moussa’s journey in diplomacy began after he graduated from Cairo University with a law degree. His early career saw him join the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he quickly rose through the ranks due to his keen intellect and exceptional diplomatic skills.


Moussa’s most prominent role came when he was appointed Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1991, a position he held until 2001. During his tenure, Moussa was instrumental in shaping Egypt’s foreign policy, particularly its relations with the Arab world and its stance on the Palestinian issue. His tenure was marked by a balanced approach, advocating for dialogue and cooperation while firmly defending Arab interests on the international stage.


In 2001, Moussa’s diplomatic career reached new heights when he was elected Secretary-General of the Arab League, a role he held for a decade. Under his leadership, the Arab League saw significant reforms aimed at increasing its effectiveness and responsiveness to the needs of its member states. Moussa was a vocal advocate for Arab unity and worked tirelessly to mediate conflicts and foster cooperation among the league’s members.


Moussa’s contributions extended beyond his official roles. He was a key player in numerous peace initiatives, including efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His deep understanding of regional dynamics and his ability to engage with diverse stakeholders made him a respected figure in international diplomacy. His tenure as Secretary-General was marked by efforts to strengthen the Arab League’s role in global affairs, enhancing its ability to act as a unified voice for the Arab world.


In addition to his diplomatic endeavors, Moussa played a crucial role in Egypt’s domestic politics. After the 2011 Egyptian revolution, he was appointed Chair of the Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting a new Egyptian Constitution. His leadership was pivotal in navigating the complex political landscape of post-revolution Egypt, ensuring that the constitution reflected the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy and stability.


Moussa’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been a cornerstone of his diplomatic career. He has often praised the Kingdom’s leadership in promoting peace and stability in the region. Throughout his tenure, Moussa worked closely with Saudi leaders to address regional challenges, from the Palestinian conflict to economic cooperation. His deep respect for Saudi Arabia’s role in the Arab world is evident in his numerous initiatives that aligned with the Kingdom’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous Middle East.


Today, Moussa remains a respected elder statesman, frequently sought after for his insights on Middle Eastern affairs. His legacy is one of dedication to diplomacy, a tireless pursuit of peace, and a steadfast commitment to Arab unity. His life’s work inspires new generations of diplomats and leaders in the Arab world and beyond.


In an exclusive interview, we sat down with Moussa to discuss the impact of the October 7th attacks and their broader implications for regional stability. He also addressed the Palestinian resistance, Egypt’s leverage points against Israel, and regional dynamics involving Iran and Saudi Arabia.


What are your views on the recent significant transformations in Saudi Arabia?

The transformative developments within Saudi Arabia under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have garnered domestic and world attention. The Kingdom has embarked on a path of change, particularly evident in societal and political spheres, marking a new era for the nation.

Internationally, Saudi Arabia’s approach to engagement and partnerships has evolved. The recent Iranian-Saudi agreement brokered under the Chinese initiative stands as a notable example, drawing widespread positive responses. However, some have connected recent events, such as the October 7th resistance movement and the halt in normalization efforts with Israel, to these broader shifts.

I never thought that Saudi Arabia would normalise relations with Israel without a quid pro quo in accordance with the Arab peace initiative.

Overall, my perspective on these developments in Saudi Arabia is optimistic. They signal progress and a forward-thinking leadership that is willing to address challenges and embrace change in the 21st century.


Can you elaborate on the complexities surrounding the Palestinian issue and its recent developments, particularly in light of the October 7th attacks?

To fully grasp the recent developments, it’s essential to understand the historical context of the Palestinian issue. For a long time, Israel, with the support of several major powers, has managed to marginalise the Palestinian cause, often avoiding substantive discussions on military occupation and resistance. This superficial approach has led to significant complications. The belief that the issue could be sidelined was fundamentally flawed, as it ignored the deep-rooted and complex nature of the conflict.


How did the October 7th attacks alter this landscape?

The attacks on October 7th marked a critical turning point. Initially, Israel and many Western nations attempted to frame the attacks as acts of terrorism against Israel, thereby justifying Israel’s right to self-defence. However, this narrative was quickly contested. The events exposed Israel’s vulnerabilities and brought to light the broader injustices of its policies, challenging the simplified portrayal and sparking a re-evaluation of the situation.


What is the broader significance of these attacks on the Palestinian resistance, both in terms of perception and the ongoing conflict?

These attacks have shattered the carefully constructed image of Israel as a bastion of strength and democracy, exposing it for what it truly is: an occupying and oppressive force. The Palestinian people’s resolute refusal to accept humiliation and normalisation efforts has ignited a renewed spirit of resistance against occupation, further undermining Israel’s narrative.


How did Israel’s initial assessment and subsequent response to these developments unfold?

Israel, initially blinded by arrogance, gravely underestimated the magnitude of the situation. It assumed that any repercussions would be minimal and easily contained, even viewing the attacks as an opportunity to justify further aggression and displacement of Palestinians in Gaza. This stems from Israeli baseless belief of Arabs being “incompetent deadbeats.”


How do you view the broader implications of these events for the Palestinian cause and regional dynamics?

These events have served as a powerful testament to the resilience of the Palestinian people and the futility of superficial or cosmetic solutions. They have reignited global attention to the Palestinian issue and exposed Israel’s vulnerabilities. Furthermore, they have disrupted traditional power dynamics in the region, forcing a reassessment of long-held assumptions. The Palestinian cause has been reinvigorated, and the geopolitical landscape has been fundamentally altered.


What are your thoughts on the recent Israeli actions in Rafah and along the Philadelphi Corridor, particularly in light of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty?

Israel’s recent actions in Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor are a continuation of its colonial and racist policies, rooted in outdated assumptions about Arab weakness and susceptibility to coercion. This approach is no longer viable in the modern world and the emerging new Middle East.

Regarding Rafah, the Israeli Foreign Minister has accused Egypt of hindering the exit of Palestinians by closing the border crossing. While Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has addressed these accusations, it’s important to understand the broader context.

Israel’s claim suggests that Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing is the primary cause of Palestinian suffering. This is a misrepresentation. Egypt’s closure is not designed to block aid or essential goods, as Israel implies. Rather, it is a deliberate measure to prevent forced displacement and protect Palestinian rights.

While Israel attempts to shift blame onto Egypt, the reality is that Israel’s actions are the root cause of Palestinian suffering. Egypt refuses to be a party to the oppression of the Palestinian people.


How can Arab states, especially Egypt, address Iran’s growing influence in the region and its adverse effects?

Egypt, comparable in size and influence to Iran and Turkey, plays a key role in the region. In this connection, Egypt and Saudi Arabia would together form a substantial force countering Iranian and other regional ambitions.

Unlike some regional neighbors, Egypt doesn’t face Sunni-Shiite sectarian issues with Iran. Historically, relations have been strong, exemplified by the Shah of Iran’s marriage to the Egyptian king’s sister, under the auspices of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.

The crux of the issue lies in Iran’s regional policies and support for destabilizing movements. Their proclaimed rule over four Arab capitals underscores these ambitions and escalates tensions. Significantly, Iran and Israel remain the only two states in the region that have not recognized the Arab Peace Initiative.

For Iran to re-establish positive relations with the Arab world, it should recognize the Arab Initiative and genuinely embrace the two-state solution based on the June 5th lines. This would pave the way for regional understanding and cooperation.

Egypt, with its considerable size and influence, is committed to working with its Arab partners to maintain regional stability. Our partnership with Saudi Arabia is a strategic step in reinforcing the collective power of Arab states to address regional challenges and maintain a balanced peace in the region.

Egypt’s role extends beyond its physical size. We wield significant influence and soft power capable of shaping regional dynamics. We are committed to enhancing this role to serve the interests of the entire region. The challenges we face demand ongoing cooperation and coordination among Arab states. I believe that Egypt stands ready to fulfil its part.


In what ways does Egypt’s approach to regional issues, notably in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, diverge from Iran’s?

Egypt and Iran’s approaches to regional issues, particularly in the complex theatres of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq, are notably divergent.

Iran has often been characterized by a confrontational stance, extending support to proxy groups within these nations. Conversely, Egypt’s approach is more nuanced, seeking inclusive solutions. Rather than escalating tensions through proxy conflicts, Egypt aims to understand the root causes of instability, striving for constructive resolutions that serve the interests of all stakeholders, especially the legitimate Arab interests.

This approach underscores Egypt’s dedication to regional stability and its conviction in the power of dialogue and diplomacy as conflict resolution tools.


In light of the ongoing crisis in Sudan, could you elaborate on the complex challenges facing the nation and potential pathways to resolution?

The crisis in Sudan is undeniably intricate, stemming from a confluence of deep-rooted political, economic, and social factors. Decades of mismanagement under previous regimes have left the country grappling with instability and unrest. To forge a path towards resolution, it is imperative to acknowledge Sudan’s sovereignty and unique historical context, recognising that sustainable solutions must be tailored to the nation’s specific circumstances.

Crucially, international collaboration and support are vital in empowering the Sudanese people to overcome this crisis and rebuild their nation. Egypt, in particular, advocates for a holistic approach that not only addresses the immediate humanitarian needs but also tackles the underlying causes of the conflict. This includes fostering inclusive dialogue, promoting national reconciliation, and supporting Sudan’s efforts to establish stable governance structures.

Ultimately, a lasting resolution to the Sudanese crisis hinges on a combination of national resilience, regional cooperation, stopping foreign colonial intervention, and unwavering international commitment to the well-being of the Sudanese people is in dire need.

In my opinion, the solution in Sudan is to maintain civil rule, a strong army, and a more African and Arab stabilizing role.

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