Egypt, Palestine and the Vatican

Egyptian President Abdel Fateh Al-Sisi is on a diplomatic visit to Italy.

Pope Francis and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meet at the Vatican.

Pope Francis and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meet at the Vatican.

While Egyptians and Italians both share a love of pasta and football, it’s the topic of Palestine and a resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican which have proven more important to the travelling Egyptian President.

Let’s take a closer look at these two topics.

1, Sisi claimed, in conversation with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, that Egypt would be prepared to send military forces to support a future Palestinian State.

Egypt’s response to Palestine is a complicated one, caught somewhere between compassion and fear. Egypt’s geographic proximity to Palestine isn’t always paralleled by a uniformly friendly political sentiment. Read more about Egypt’s historic relationship with Palestine in this article which I wrote for YourMiddleEast.com

2, Sisi meets with Pope Francis, where he has been urged to embrace Egypt’s “diplomatic role” in the region. Pope Francis is also said to have spoken of the need for Egypt’s “peaceful political transition.”

Coptic-Catholic Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Pope Francis' personal secretary.

Coptic-Catholic Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, Pope Francis’ personal secretary.

Sisi’s presence at the Vatican, the first diplomatic visit to take place in eight years, is itself an important symbolic moment. After Pope Benedict’s ill received comments about the culpability of Egyptian authorities in attacks on Coptic-Christians, as well Al-Azhar University’s negative response to the former Pope’s comments about violence in Islam, the relationship between Egypt and the Vatican had weakened considerably. Comments on Islam and violence would be particularly damaging, as the University is widely felt to be Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning.

Whether the Italian-Egyptian relationship will really stand to benefit from the President’s visit remains to be seen, but the friendly tone of the political tour is a good sign for the two nations, as is the potent symbolism of the Arab leader’s visit to the seat of Roman Catholicism.

Now, more on Egyptian pasta!

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