In response to a report that Egypt is engaging in negotiations with Iran over the purchase of oil, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, today sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking her "strong assurances that the government of Egypt is not entertaining an oil deal with Iran prior to concluding negotiations on a debt relief package." While an Egyptian official has denied the report, Corker wants to ensure Egypt does not undermine U.S. and European oil sanctions on Iran designed to stop the Iranian regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
"The current slate of oil sanctions imposed by the U.S. and our European allies is one of the strongest tools we currently have in use to influence the Iranian regime to give up their nuclear program and improve their human rights record. Any deal negotiated by Egypt with Iran to purchase oil would stand as an affront to our strong efforts to isolate Iran economically," Corker wrote in his letter. "While I fully support taking every appropriate step to help Egypt create a strong and vibrant economy, including through potential debt relief, I seek your strong assurances that the government of Egypt is not entertaining an oil deal with Iran prior to concluding negotiations on a debt relief package."
After returning from a fact finding trip to Egypt and Turkey from August 29 to September 1, Corker expressed optimism regarding Egypt's "focus on creating a strong economy in this critical region," adding that "a strong relationship based upon democratic governance and trade is clearly in the interests of the United States and the other countries of this important region." He met with Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, the Egyptian defense minister, and the ministry of foreign affairs to discuss governance, security, regional issues and relations between our two countries. He also met with Robert Hormats, U.S. undersecretary of State for economic growth, and talked with Egyptian civil society leaders, members of the business community, and the media about the current direction of the new government.