by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) — Egypt receives the New Year with growing influence on issues of regional and international concerns and a notable role in maintaining regional peace and security, besides drawing the world’s attention with several events it held throughout the year 2021.
During the year, Egypt mediated a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas-led militants in the Gaza Strip, held remarkable Pharaonic-like parades in Cairo and Luxor and started local production of COVID-19 vaccines via cooperation with China.
International and regional powers agree that Egypt plays a key role in maintaining peace and security in the Middle East, particularly in recent years as the region has been witnessing increasing conflicts and tensions.
A clear example was seen in May 2021 when Egypt fruitfully mediated in a thorny conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups led by Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, reaching a Cairo-brokered truce after 11 days of deadly exchanged strikes between Israel and Hamas-led militants that claimed the lives of at least 260 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
World powers and organizations hailed Egypt’s role in reaching the cease-fire, including the United States, China, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, besides the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Egypt’s influence on regional stability is derived from its main foreign policy principles including supporting state institutions rather than militias, urging for peaceful settlement of internal conflicts, backing regional reconciliations, fighting terrorism, rejecting foreign interventions and reviving stalemated peace talks in issues obstructing regional stability such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said Mohamed Ezz El-Arab, head of the Arab and Regional Studies Unit at Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS).
“To maintain regional stability, as seen in the outgoing year, Egypt is trying to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace through bringing both sides to the tables of negotiation and to precede that with an internal reconciliation between the Palestinian two main factions Fatah and Hamas,” the ACPSS expert told Xinhua ahead of the New Year.
Egypt also has been supporting the stability and territorial integrity of regional restive spots including Syria, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen and Lebanon.
In mid-2021, Egypt became the first country in Africa to cooperate with China in COVID-19 vaccine production.
In July, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry attended a ceremony at El Alamein coastal city in northern Egypt to mark the joint production of 1 million doses of the Chinese vaccines in Egypt.
The collaboration was welcomed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a successful model for international cooperation.”
“The cooperation between Egypt and China is a successful model for international cooperation and transfer of global expertise, which contributes to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” Naeema Al-Gasseer, WHO representative in Egypt, said in a statement in July.
The project started with a letter of intent for cooperation on COVID-19 vaccine production signed between China and Egypt in December 2020.
Later in April, Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac inked an agreement with the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) and sent technical teams to Egypt to facilitate the local production of the vaccine.
Through Egyptian-Sino cooperation, Egypt plans to become a center for exporting COVID-19 vaccines in Africa after achieving vaccine self-sufficiency.
“The solid cooperation between China and Egypt, especially in the health field, will achieve the well-being of the two peoples and contribute to global prosperity,” Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar said in a recent interview with Xinhua.
Egypt held two remarkable cultural ceremonies in 2021 that gained international media coverage, putting its Pharaonic heritage in display for the whole world.
The first was in early April, when it held “The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade” to mark the relocation of 22 Pharaonic mummies from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, both in Cairo.
The festivity started with 22 ancient-like vehicles specially designed for the event, each carrying the name of the mummy of the king or queen inside, moving from Tahrir Square and escorted by parades of chariots, motorcycles and men and women dressed in ancient Egyptian outfits.
The royal mummies belong to 18 kings and four queens from the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties that ruled ancient Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
The second event was held in late November to mark the reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor Province after years of renovation work, with hopes to internationally promote the country’s ancient civilization and its tourism sector.
The 2,400-year-old promenade is 2,700-metre-long with 1,057 ram-headed and man-headed sphinxes lining along both sides of the walkway, which stretches between the temples of Karnak and Luxor Temple.
As Egypt bids farewell to 2021, Cairo has been selected by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) as “Capital of Culture in the Islamic World for 2022,” which will be marked by tens of cultural activities throughout the new year, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
Egypt’s Culture Minister Inas Abdel-Dayem said in recent remarks to Xinhua that the selection of Cairo “embodies Egypt’s international position,” adding that “it is also an affirmation of Egypt’s cultural and historical status among the world’s states.”