Morsi and the Brotherhood have sought to ease Gulf concerns, stressing that the security of the Gulf nations is directly linked to Cairo’s own. Egypt has traditionally relied upon the oil-rich nations for financial aid to its faltering economy.
‘‘Egypt’s relationship with Iran will never come at the expense of Gulf nations,’’ Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr Kamel said Tuesday.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are closely allied to the United States, have appeared unconvinced by Cairo’s reassurances. However, tiny, super-rich Qatar has taken a different approach to post-Mubarak Egypt, pouring billions of dollars into its fast-emptying coffers to prop up its free-falling economy and currency.
Morsi’s spokesman Yasser Ali reiterated Wednesday that any improvement in relations with Iran hinged on Tehran’s policy in Syria.
‘‘Iran can be a part of the solution,’’ Ali said Wednesday. He also said Egypt backs the Syrian opposition’s offer of negotiations with Assad.
Egyptian officials maintain they are trying to persuade Iran to drop, or at least soften, its support for Assad so it can assume a ‘‘constructive role’’ in the war-torn nation after the fall of the regime there, something that the Egyptians believe to be a question of when rather than if.
Morsi’s government, they say, is courting Iran out of concern that without coordination between all regional powers with a stake in Syria, the country would break up along sectarian or religious lines after Assad’s departure and the conflict could spill over into neighboring countries like Lebanon and Iraq. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The region’s sectarian tensions have surfaced even before the summit began.
On Tuesday, its most high profile participant, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was publicly warned against interference by Shiite Iran in the affairs of the mostly Sunni Gulf Arab nations. Egypt’s most prominent cleric also urged Iran to halt efforts to spread Shiite Islam.
Also on Tuesday, a Syrian citizen protested Iran’s backing for Assad by throwing his shoes at Ahmadinejad outside a religious site in Cairo.
Morsi’s growing involvement in high profile regional politics is explained by his administration as an effort to restore Egypt’s traditionally leading diplomatic role in the area. But foreign policy also appears to offer the Egyptian leader a way to compensate for his perceived failures to tackle pressing problems at home, his critics say.
The summit of the 57-member OIC, held in a luxury hotel in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis district, came a day after the central bank disclosed that the country’s strategic foreign currency reserves have made another alarming drop to around $13 billion, nearly two thirds below where they stood when Mubarak stepped down nearly years ago.
Other sectors of the economy are also in a deep slump, like the vital tourism industry.
Morsi also is facing a seemingly endless wave of protests by an opposition that demands an end to what it describes as his efforts to monopolize power and advance the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood group.