Former Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, author of Witness to War and Peace: Egypt, the October War, and Beyond (AUC Press, 2019), was invited to speak at the AUC Forum last month on the AUC New Cairo campus. Addressing a packed audience, he talked about ‘How Egypt’s Foreign Policy is Made.’
“I believe we have without any debate or question the most senior, continuously practicing statesman, not only of Egypt, but of the Arab world, by rank, by title, and by fact,” said AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., former US ambassador to Egypt, in his introductory remarks about Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “I had the privilege of knowing the secretary general when he was foreign minister,” added Ricciardone, who is the author of the foreword to the second volume of Aboul Gheit’s memoirs, Egypt’s Foreign Policy in Times of Crisis: My Testimony (AUC Press, forthcoming).
The panel was moderated by Bahgat Korany, director, AUC Forum and professor of international relations and political economy at AUC’s Department of Political Science. It was attended by AUC’s Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman, professors, students, diplomats, politicians, and journalists.
“Memoirs of influential figures are always crucial. They are important for the media, for the public, but also for people like us at AUC—students and academics. Without these memoirs, most of our analysis of foreign policy is like guesses and speculation. Memoirs give us the chance to back up what we say and provide credible analysis,” noted Korany.
Today Ahmed Aboul Gheit is head of the League of Arab States. In his address, he retraced the milestones of his long career in the Egyptian government. “Since I was ten years old, in all honesty, I wanted to leave a print. That was my objective in life—to leave a print. At the beginning I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my father. I was very eager to join the military academy. So since I was ten, I was spending hours every day reading about military history, strategy, history of personalities, biographies. I failed to be a military officer and the lesson was the idea of surmounting the difficulties—that you fail, you stand up, and you continue. So I joined the Egyptian foreign service in 1965. I served the Egyptian state for 46 years. I felt there was an obligation to write my experience as a diplomat, as a foreign minister, as someone who read extensively. . . . My motto was: you read till you are blind, you work till you die, you marry well, and you pray for God to give you, like Machiavelli used to say, ‘fortuna’ (fortune). Without fortune nothing is possible.”
Listen to Aboul Gheit’s talk on the role and place of Egypt’s foreign policy in the world, beginning with when he joined the Egyptian foreign service in 1965 (17:21 / 1:23:38 in the time play track), on AUCTV.