President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is heading to New York tomorrow to attend the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, which, kicking off on 18 September and ending on 5 October, is an annual opportunity for member states to speak their minds to the international community.
Egypt will take the opportunity to present its take on sustainable development, counter-terrorism efforts, the Palestinian cause, regional turmoil in the Middle East and coping with climate change.
This year’s General Assembly is of particular importance because Egypt is not just presenting its own agenda, but is also the president of the G-77 group of nations for 2018.
President Al-Sisi will give the inaugural address at the G-77 plus China ministerial meeting on 27 September, which will be attended by the UN secretary-general.
With most world leaders under the same roof, the General Assembly Session is an opportunity to discuss pressing issues and promote bilateral relations.
Al-Sisi is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti.
He will also hold meetings with members of the US House of Representatives and Senate to present Egypt’s vision on regional issues and bilateral relations.
The talks will discuss the strengthening of bilateral relations at all levels, especially economic and political. The president will also emphasise the importance of reaching a just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian issue in order to contribute effectively to the stability of the Middle East and to provide security for the region.
The discussions are scheduled to tackle efforts regarding the renewal of religious discourse to reflect the true spirit of Islam. Egypt’s efforts to balance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms while maintaining security and stability will also be discussed.
Egypt will present its approach to counter-terrorism, which includes security and military aspects as well as the renewal of religious discourse and promoting the values of citizenship and coexistence.
“We have a long experience of counter-terrorism. Egypt has proposed issues that are a priority for us, and it has succeeded in passing two UN Security Council resolutions on the matter by consensus,” Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Mohamed Idris, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
These are UN Security Council Resolution 2354 (2017), which focuses on implementing the Comprehensive Global Framework for Countering Terrorist Rhetoric, and UN Security Council Resolution 2370 (2017), which focuses on preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons.
“Egypt was particularly keen on passing the latter resolution due to the serious threat posed by some countries — especially some in the Middle East — in supplying weapons to terrorists and armed groups to carry out destructive regional agendas,” Idris said.
Egypt is participating in the Ninth Session of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) on 26 September, which is the annual meeting of ministers concerned in New York.
Egypt was one of the 30 founding states of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) in 2011, and it currently chairs one of five working groups focused on building the capability of East African countries in counter-terrorism, according to Idris.
Egypt’s presence in the world gathering mirrors the keenness of its political leadership to declare the country’s stances regarding different issues and to highlight its priorities, said Hassan Abu Taleb, an expert at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.
Egypt has been focusing on the importance of combating terrorism under the umbrella of the United Nations and on garnering the cooperation of other countries via exchanging information and banning any form of assistance to countries that support terrorism, Abu Taleb said.
Terrorism remains a challenge as it is connected to several regional issues such as the situation in Yemen, Libya and Syria, he added. “Egypt stresses the importance of world security as well as that of the region,” he added.
Egypt is also keen to show off the recent economic development of the country. “Egypt is opening its markets to foreign investment. This is a chance for Egypt to show the world that it offers a stable environment for different investments,” Abu Taleb said.
Egypt will also present its current national efforts to mobilise domestic resources to fund development through its economic reform programme, and it will confirm the need for consolidating international efforts to assist developing countries in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Idris told the Weekly.
The UN General Assembly Session is also an ideal opportunity to lobby for the Palestinian cause, Abu Taleb said.
“Egypt is against the US recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and its stopping aid sent to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) and its pressuring the Palestinians to gain further rights for the Israelis,” he explained.
While the Palestinian cause topped the agenda of the UN Security Council before 2011, today’s agenda is packed with other issues, such as the situations in Syria, Libya and Yemen.
Nonetheless, Idris said, “there is an Arab consensus not to surrender to this muddle, because we believe the Palestinians’ legal rights are inalienable.
Accordingly, during its membership of the UN Security Council and through its influential presence in the UN agencies, Egypt has worked to protect provisions regarding the Palestinian cause in the Security Council, renewing and embedding the rights of our Palestinian brothers to their land.”
Al-Sisi will also review Egypt’s vision of various regional crises at the session, emphasising the need to preserve the region’s nation states and to support their institutions and strengthen their cohesion.
Egypt is concerned about the situation in Libya and the Libyan government’s apparent inability to control the situation there, especially terrorism, Abu Taleb said. “Egypt insists on the importance of international cooperation to support the legitimate Libyan institutions,” he said.
“Egypt believes that the best way to handle the Libyan crisis is to support the Libyan Political Agreement and the UN Plan of Action on Libya,” Idris added.
For these to succeed, the international community must take a firm stand against funding and supporting terrorist elements in Libya, he stressed.
The president’s agenda in New York includes one-on-one meetings with the leaders of various African nations, especially regarding South Sudan, Libya, the Sahel and the Great Lakes regions, according to Idris.
“Egypt is interested in promoting cooperation between the UN and the African Union (AU), especially as it nears its presidency of the AU beginning in January 2019, by strengthening existing treaty frameworks in this regard,” he added.
Egypt will participate in a high-level dialogue with the UN secretary-general on “Implementing the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” (UNFCCC) on 24 September, since it heads the G-77 negotiations on the outcomes of the UNFCCC to activate and implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, especially articles relating to funding and adaptation, Idris said.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 20 September 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Garnering international support