Islamist-led Egypt reassures Gulf states over ties with Iran
CAIRO - Egypt will not improve its ties with Iran at the expense of undermining Gulf Arab security, Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said on Tuesday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a landmark visit.
"The security of Gulf countries is a red line for Egypt," Amr said on the eve of an Islamic summit, in a bid to reassure Sunni Arab nations in the Gulf wary of a rapprochement with Shiite Iran.
"Egypt's relations with any country, particularly Gulf nations, will not be made at the expense of their security," he said.
Ahmadinejad arrived on Tuesday in Cairo to attend the three-day Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit that opens on Wednesday in the Egyptian capital.
His visit is the first by an Iranian president to Egypt since the 1979 revolution -- the same year Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. A year later Tehran severed ties with Cairo in protest at the agreement.
Ahmadinejad has said that strengthening bilateral ties with Cairo would be a main aim of his visit.
"I will try to pave the ground for developing cooperation between Iran and Egypt," he was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Iran has been reaching out to Egypt since Islamists came to power in the wake of the 2011 revolution that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak's successor, Mohamed Morsi who hails from the influential Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, has responded cautiously to Iranian efforts to revive ties, amid differences between Cairo and Tehran over Syria.
Ties between Shiite Iran and the Sunni-ruled six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates -- have been strained since Gulf troops rolled into Bahrain in 2011 to help put down Shiite-led protests.
In December leaders of the GCC held their annual summit and issued a statement saying they "reject and denounce" Iran's "continued interference" in their internal affairs.
The GCC added that Tehran must "immediately and completely stop these actions and policies that increase regional tension and threaten security and stability".
On Tuesday the Egyptian foreign minister insisted that Gulf Arab security "is part and parcel" of Egypt's security.