Relations further deteriorated after Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Morsi’s government has presented the moves to improve ties as a policy of greater independence from the United States. He may also have geopolitical considerations: Gulf powerhouses Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are cool to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and his rule, and several experts said Morsi wants to keep the option of ties with Iran open as an alternative.
‘‘Now relations with Gulf Countries are not that good. You need to make some balance and to play with all cards you have,’’ Egypt’s former ambassador to Syria, Mahmoud Shukri, told The Associated Press.
Still, he and others said they don’t expect normal relations to be restored between the two countries. ‘‘This phase is to open channels and have dialogue,’’ Shukri said.
Morsi is also reluctant to go too far with Iran and alienate the United States, whose help Egypt is hoping for in rescuing a faltering economy, or hurt ties with Israel, with which his government has maintained cooperation despite the Brotherhood’s deep enmity to the Jewish state.
‘‘I don’t see that Egypt will make a decision separate from the course of its relationship with the U.S. and Israel, for whom Iran is now the main issue,’’ said Mohammed Abbas Nagi, an Egyptian expert on Iran.
The Syria issue is also a complication between Morsi and Tehran. While Iran staunchly backs Assad’s bloody suppression of the revolt, Cairo is home to the offices of the main Syrian opposition council, in which the Brotherhood’s Syrian branch has a strong presence.
At home, ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis, who are largely backers of Morsi, see Iran as Sunni Islam’s greatest enemy. Salafi clerics often rail against Shiites and Iran in their sermons.
On Tuesday, Egypt’s hardline Daawa Salafiya, which is the foundation of the main Salafi political Al-Nour Party, released a statement calling on Morsi to confront Ahmadinejad on Tehran’s support for the Syrian regime and make clear that ‘‘Egypt is committed to the protection of all Sunni nations.’’
On the other end of the political spectrum, liberal politician Mohamed Anwar Esmat Sadat, nephew of the late President Anwar Sadat, said in a statement Tuesday that he is concerned about the Brotherhood’s ties with Iran.
President Sadat was assassinated after signing Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. Iran then outraged Egyptian officials when it named a street in honor of his assassin, Khaled al-Islambouli.
Ahmadinejad is scheduled to attend the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Cairo, which starts Wednesday. Security officials said Ahmadinejad also will tour the Pyramids in Giza.
Morsi visited Tehran last year to attend an international summit in the first visit by an Egyptian leader to Iran in years. But Morsi used the opportunity in Tehran to lash out at Iran’s ally, calling the Damascus regime ‘‘oppressive.’’
Egypt’s leader has spearheaded an ‘‘Islamic quartet’’ of nations to try and resolve the Syrian crisis. The grouping includes Iran, as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are two of the most vocal critics of the Syrian president.
Saudi Arabia has largely abstained from the group’s meetings in an apparent snub to Iran’s Syria policies. Egyptian officials say they will try to revive those talks on the sidelines of this week’s OIC summit.
Associated Press writer Amir Makar contributed to this report.