Egypt’s al-Sisi kicks off first tour of Europe

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French President Francois Hollande (L) listens on as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi speaks, during a joint statement at the Elysee Palace, on November 26, 2014, in Paris.AFP/Alain Jocard

By: Iman Ibrahim

Published Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has devoted the first months of his term to regaining the initiative in the realm of foreign relations. After his participation in the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September, al-Sisi chose Italy and France as his next two destinations before finalizing his first visit to the European continent.

Paris – The Egyptian president begins today, November 26, the second phase of his European tour in the French capital Paris, which he had kicked off in the Italian capital [Rome].

Egyptian presidential sources have said that “Egypt made a recent request to France to negotiate a new arms deal, after the authorities concerned assessed the army’s need of weapons.”

“Egypt submitted a request to France to sign a contract to buy 24 Rafale jet fighters, and negotiations in this regard will be key points of discussion during the meetings to be held by the president on Wednesday morning in France, where he will meet French President Francois Hollande, a number of ministers, business owners, and members of the Egyptian community.”

Al-Sisi’s visit to Italy and France is his first to Europe since his victory in the presidential elections last summer. In an interview with Al-Akhbar, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that al-Sisi’s meetings with the Italian officials resulted in a number of bilateral cooperation agreements in the security and economic fields. He added that these agreements are scheduled to be signed at the end of the year, most notably a cooperation agreement to supply Egypt with equipment needed by the security forces to conduct surveillance along the Egyptian shores.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister added that a set of agreements to support the Egyptian economy and the Egyptian debt swap, and others regarding soft loans aimed at activating Italian investments in Egypt is also on the table. He said that he agreed with Italian Prime Minister Matthew Rantza to set specific mechanisms to closely monitor the implementation of the agreements signed between the two countries, noting that the importance of the meetings stems from the strong interest in cooperation with Egypt demonstrated by Rantza, who has met with al-Sisi for the third time.

According to data [provided by] the Italian Foreign Ministry, Italy is the first trade partner of Egypt on the EU level, and the third in the world after the US and China, and Italy is one of the top five countries with investments in the Egyptian economy.

At a joint press conference with the Italian prime minister, the Egyptian president said that the map of terrorism in the region “is expanding, which requires greater cooperation with all our European friends.”

“We discussed issues of common interest between Egypt and Italy related to counter-terrorism, and we agreed to take serious and firm action to address them,” he added.

Politically, the reference to Qatar is perhaps the main highlight of the Egyptian president’s statement. “The ball today is not in the Egyptian court, but with the other side,” he said, referring to Egyptian-Qatari relations.

In response to a question about Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz’s initiative, al-Sisi said that “the Egyptian side responded quickly to the initiative out of appreciation for His Majesty the King, but the ball today is not in the Egyptian court, but with the other side,” referring to the return of normal Egyptian-Qatari relations.

On November 19, the Saudi king said in a statement that “the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait confirmed in the “Supplementary Riyadh Agreement” that they all stand beside Egypt and look forward to starting a new phase [marked by] consensus and harmony between brothers.”

As for Libya, the Egyptian president said that “Egypt respects the will of the Libyan people, seeks to prevent them from being blackmailed by force, and will support Libyan legitimacy [by respecting] the choice of the people and backing the Libyan National Army.”

He noted that “Egypt did not intervene in Libya, but it is protecting its borders from within Egyptian territory only.” He added that “Egypt has a fixed and stable vision on Libya, which is non-intervention, unless it is in the interest of the Libyans.”

On the Palestinian cause, al-Sisi said: “We have to give hope to the Palestinians through the establishment of two states.” He noted that he has stressed to the Israelis “the importance of peace-building with everyone’s cooperation in order to resolve the Palestinian issue, and thus create a new reality and resolve a major crisis in the region.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

This is exactly the reason people outside of Europe and North America hate the governments of those countries. Because democracy is something they pay lip service to but are slow on action, or rather, fast on counteraction.

When ever a favourite "democratically elected" dictator arrives in a European or North American capital, there is only talk of economics and security, as if nothing else in the world existed. Excuse me for asking, but was there not a coup just recently in Egypt? Is there no severe repression occurring almost on a daily basis? Have they no imprisoned 3 journalists for absolutely nothing?

Another irony: The Saudis give the Egyptions $3 Billion in help, that is to the Sisi government. Sisi is labeling everyone terrorists whether he be MBH or not and yet he does business with probably the most fascist state in the middle east, which has spawned a generation of extremist soldiers, who fight for some obscure view of 7th century caliphate(the Saudis themselves preferring the very modern American cities or European capitals).

Yet when the Russians support Al-Assad then they are castigated for it. That still isn't anything, they give themselves the right to attempt to overthrow assad, siding with the very people they are claiming to be fighting, stating countries such as Libya and Yemen as success stories... You have to really out of this world to accept such things at face value. You have a NATO member openly allowing extremists to use Turkey as a launching pad for attacks on Syria.

The hypocrisy continues....

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