As early media reports suggested, Egypt has officially nominated former Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit to succeed Nabil al-Araby as secretary-general of the Arab League. On February 28, Araby announced that he would not seek to renew his five-year term when it ends on July 1.
Aboul Gheit is the only nominee for the position, Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Bin Helli said in a statement released Monday. Twenty-two foreign ministers of Arab countries will vote on the nomination in Cairo on Thursday, the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
Following Araby’s announcement, on February 29 local newspapers reported that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had already nominated an unnamed Egyptian candidate for the position. However, several media outlets, including the privately owned Youm7 and Al-Masry Al-Youm, anticipated that it would be Aboul Gheit.
The 73-year-old served as Egypt’s foreign minister under former President Hosni Mubarak from July 11, 2004 to March 6, 2011, staying on briefly after the Mubarak regime had been toppled. He was also appointed as Egypt’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1999.
The privately owned daily Al-Tahrir referred to Aboul Gheit as the “enemy of the January 25 revolution” after he accused the United States of conspiring to organize the 2011 protests in coordination with Egyptian civil society organizations since 2005.
Aboul Gheit seems fond of the current president — in an interview on the talk show “Al-Qahera Al-Youm” (Cairo Today) broadcast on the privately owned Orbit channel in December 2015, the ex-minister called Sisi “my hero who saved Egypt.” He also claimed that late head of intelligence Omar Soliman predicted Sisi would topple the Muslim Brotherhood four days before his death, and allegedly told Aboul Gheit that Sisi would be the “man of the moment.”
As far as foreign relations go, Aboul Gheit is expected to garner support from neighboring Arab states based on his strong anti-Iran sentiment and his support of Saudi Arabia. In 2009, amid increasing tension over Iran’s nuclear program, Aboul Gheit stated on the TV show “Halet Hiwar” (A State of Dialogue, broadcast on state TV), “There are two major powers that should be safeguarded, namely Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Egypt cannot leave Saudi Arabia alone. We are ready to support Saudi Arabia to the fullest extent.”
In another interview broadcast on the Orbit satellite channel in 2009, Aboul Gheit said that Hamas and Hezbollah “tried to turn the region to confrontation in the interest of Iran, which is trying to use its cards to escape Western pressure” for nuclear disarmament.