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Egyptian Diplomacy Day

The Day of the Egyptian Diplomacy 

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs celebrates on the 15th of March every year “the Day of the Egyptian Diplomacy”, which corresponds with the re-establishing of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry after the Declaration of Independence from Britain on the 22nd of February 1922. Being the most important aspect of sovereignty and independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been abolished for seven years after the announcement of the British protectorate over Egypt in 1914 and its work and terms of reference were transferred to the British High Commissioner. On 15 March 1922, the British government informed the states that have had representatives in Cairo that the Egyptian government is "now free to re-inaugurate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and thus can establish diplomatic and consular representation abroad.”

The historical facts indicates that since the very thinking about establishing what later became the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as early as June 1819, Muhammad Ali gave his directives to "Khawaja Baghos Bek Yousofian to take the post of translator" as a multilingual speaker, who could speak Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Italian and French in order to contact various foreign communities in Egypt and deal with the “outer seas” (as the international community was called at the time), and throughout the era until  the work at the Ministry was resumed After 15th March 1922, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs occupied a special status in the Egyptian government, and remained the most important symbol of national sovereignty and independence. This fact had led to the British decision to abolish the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after announcing the British protectorate over Egypt on 19th December 1914 as a manifestation of dependency on Britain. For the first time, the second Cabinet of Hussein Roushdi was formed without the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the British government enforced that the British High Commissioner becomes the Minister of Foreign Affairs similar to what happened in Tunisia and Morocco.

With the end of the First World War in November 1918 and the outbreak of the 1919 revolution, the issue of re-establishing of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry was raised, as one of the most important aspects of restoring national independence. Talks on re-inaugurating the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs lasted for three years. The matter was raised on three stages: First, when the British Milner Commission indicated in its report on the meetings of the Egyptian delegation headed by Saad Zaghloul and the Commission on June and August 1920 that: "We realized that all Egyptians, and the Sultan and his ministers in general, were eager to represent their country politically abroad however different their views on other issues are, and they were all reluctant that we had abolished the portofolio of the foreign ministry when we declared the British Protectorate and handed over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the British High Commissioner”. The British High Commissioner had already monitored, in a confidential report in December 1918, the increasing aspirations of the Egyptian officials to "replace Turkey as the first Islamic country". Notwithstanding, this first attempt to re-establish the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not take effect as British protectorate continued over Egypt, and the persistence of Britain to keep the management of all external relations in its hands.

The Second phase came Following the British declaration on 26th February 1921 that "the protectorate is an unsatisfactory relationship" between both countries. Though, even in this declaration the resumption of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not obtained, for fear that Egypt would have the freedom to communicate with countries competing Great Britain, and concerns that Egypt should attempt to assume its status as a major regional power, the matter which could harm British interests.

Britain insisted not to include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the formation of Adli Yakan Pasha’s Cabinet, in response to Egypt’s request, in the pretence that "accepting to appoint a Minister for Foreign Affairs for Egypt contradicts the foundations laid by the British Foreign Office for the negotiations". Even when the British Foreign Office agreed on the idea, it restricted this approval with many preconditions, including the approval of Great Britain on all political agreements, which resulted in Egypt’s rejection to the British proposals and postponing the return of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The third phase of attempts came with the resignation of Adli Yakan Pasha’s Cabinet on December 8, 1921. Negotiations to form a new government by Abdel Khalek Tharwat Pasha began, and he insisted in the preamble to his political platform of forming the government that “the British government states frankly and explicitly that it abolishes the protectorate and recognizes the independence of Egypt first of all", and directly following this preamble, the condition "to restore the Foreign Ministry and foreign representation of ambassadors and consuls."

Britain eventually settled to contain Egypt’s openness on the world from outside Egypt instead of restricting the reopening of the Ministry of Foreign internally. This was reflected in the circular sent by the British Government to all its representatives abroad on March 15, 1922 in what Allenby, the British High Commissioner, called "the British Monroe principle" for the British ambassadors to inform the governments to which they are accredited, which included the following:

1- The Egyptian government will have the freedom to re-establish the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a prelude to the diplomatic and consular representation of Egypt abroad.

2- Great Britain will not extend its protectorate in the future to Egyptian nationals in foreign countries, except to the extent the Egyptian government demands and until Egypt establishes its diplomatic representation in those countries.

3- Ending the British protectorate over Egypt will not affect or change the prevailing status of countries represented in Egypt.

4- The prosperity and integrity of Egypt are essential to the security of the British Empire, and therefore Britain will always keep these special relations since it is for the ultimate British interest.  The British recognition of Egypt's independence and sovereignty has outlined this position.

5- Based on this principle, any attempt from those countries to interfere in the affairs of Egypt will be considered a hostile act. Moreover, any aggression on the Egyptian territories will be punishable by every possible means.

Representatives of foreign countries in Egypt were informed on March 15, 1922 that "the Egyptian government has become free now to re-establish its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and therefore it could establish diplomatic and consular representation abroad". A circular note was issued on March 16, 1922 directed to representatives of foreign countries in Egypt concerning the appointment of Abdel Khalek Tharwat Pasha as Minister of Foreign Affairs and that any contacts regarding Foreign policy in the future should be directly through him.

The first headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after its re-establishment was “Al Bustan” Palace in Bab El Louk district in central Cairo.  Abdel Khalek Tharwat Pasha carried on his post as foreign minister with a small group of diplomats, running the work of the ministry for two years with the same administrative system applicable before 1914, until the first decree to organize the Ministry’s departments into 7 departments was issued on 4th August 1923. This was followed by a new regulation on 29 November 1925 to determine the functions of each department and define their filed of competence. Other Decisions and laws then followed, organizing, managing and controlling work in the diplomatic and consular corps, and updated to accommodate with the contemporary developments and increasing demands of the diplomatic and consular work.

In a quick glance of the development of the representation level of foreign missions to the Arab Republic of Egypt, and representation of Egypt abroad, we can notice that the beginning was before 1914, where diplomatic representation was limited to the level of Deputy or Consul General. After the 1922 declaration and until 1936 the level of foreign missions representation in Cairo was restricted to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary, with Britain against any attempts to raise the level of representation to “Ambassador”. This situation did not change except after reaching the treaty of friendship and alliance between Egypt and Great Britain on 26th of August 1936, which stipulated in its Article II that "henceforth, accredited Ambassadors should represent His Majesty the King of Great Britain in the court of His Majesty the King of Egypt and represent His Majesty the king of Egypt in the court of St James with the applicable methods.”

As for the development in the scale of diplomatic representation, representatives of seventeen countries were in Cairo after the Declaration of Independence in Egypt on February 28, 1922 who were Deputies and Consuls General. This number increased to  26 countries from 1922 until Egypt joined the League of Nations. Then embassies, consulates and offices of regional and international organizations continued to open in Egypt, reaching 240 diplomatic missions today in Cairo, which has become one of the largest centers for receiving diplomatic representation in the world.

As for Egypt’s diplomatic representation abroad, the first steps of Egyptian diplomatic and consular corps abroad began with only four missions until the formation of the necessary calibers of heads of missions and diplomatic and administrative staff. The first royal decree was issued on 24 September 1923 to appoint Extraordinary Delegates and Ministers Plenipotentiaries: Abdul Aziz Ezzat Pasha in London, Mahmoud Fakhri Pasha in Paris, Ahmed Zewaror Pasha in Rome, and the Saif Allah Yousri Pasha in Washington.

With the expansion of Egyptian relations with the world and its growing sophistication, the number of Egyptian representations abroad increased reaching in 1936 about 57 Representations (varying between 23 commissions or embassies, ​​ twelve Consulate General, and twenty-one consulates and one mission). These embassies increased with the strengthening Egyptian Foreign relations, the amplifying Egyptian interests abroad and the increasing numbers of Egyptian expatriates across the globe to reach about 162 embassies, consulates, office of interests and representation offices abroad. The total number of diplomats in Egypt’s missions abroad and the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Cairo is 980 diplomats from all ranks of diplomatic and consular corps, who are internationally recognized for their high and significant skills that befits Egypt’s school of diplomacy, who are appointed in the ministry and dispatched abroad after two stages written and oral tests. They are assisted by financial and administrative highly efficient staff, bringing the total number of employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from different categories (diplomatic, administrative and technical cadres) in and outside Egypt to about five thousand person.


 

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