Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s newly elected president, has arrived in China for the first leg of a high-profile foreign trip that will also take him to Tehran.
Morsi will spend three days in Beijing meeting with officials, including his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, for talks focused mostly on business and investment. He brings with him a delegation of seven ministers and several dozen Egyptian businessmen.
Morsi will sign a number of development contracts while in China, according to a report in the state-run Al Ahram. They include plans for a new power plant, a water desalination plant, and dozens of grain silos and bakeries.
His spokesman, Yasser Ali, told China’s official Xinhua news agency that the trip “has a political aspect, including finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, and an economic aspect, including increasing the Chinese investments in Egypt”.
Trade between the two countries has increased exponentially over the last few years, and now totals nearly $9bn, most of it Egyptian imports from China.
‘Balanced’ foreign policy
Morsi then travels to Iran on Thursday to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, the first visit by an Egyptian president since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
The two countries do not have formal diplomatic ties, but Morsi has shown early signs of wanting to thaw their long-frosty relationship.
Morsi articulated a bit of his foreign policy in an interview on Monday with Reuters news agency, saying he wanted a “balanced” foreign policy that was not “against anyone”.
He denounced the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, saying that his regime should “disappear from the scene”. And he tried to reassure Israel, which has recently expressed concern about a military buildup on the Sinai Peninsula, which Egypt says is necessary to hunt down militant groups.
“Egypt is practicing its very normal role on its soil and does not threaten anyone,” Morsi said, “and there should not be any kind of international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security forces.”
Morsi is scheduled to visit the US next month to attend the UN General Assembly meeting. He will also meet President Barack Obama on his trip.
Ali said Morsi also intends to visit several countries in Latin America, including Brazil.