President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi told participants in the Armed Forces’ Cultural Seminar, held on Monday, that he would meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during the Russia-Africa summit to be held in Sochi on 23 and 24 October, stressing that the Declaration of Principles, signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan in March 2015, allows the parties to resort to international mediation should the negotiating process face deadlock. Ahmed Eleiba reports.
Al-Sisi also said calling Ahmed on Friday to congratulate him on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was the appropriate thing to do, particularly given Egypt is the current chair of the African Union.
The gathering, arranged by the Armed Forces to mark the 46th anniversary of the 6 October War, also saw the president cautioning the public not to overreact to the fact that talks had stalled. Opportunities for negotiation remain, he said, not least through outside mediation, and Egypt was determined to overcome any obstacles “and reach an agreement that fulfils the aspirations of the peoples of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia”.
The president discussed plans to expand desalination plants along Egypt’s north and Red Sea coasts, in Ain Sokhna, Matrouh, Port Said and Sinai, saying “we have already spent LE200 billion on desalination plants and a further LE100 billion remains to be spent.
“The projects are expected to be completed next year.”
He praised the army’s role in the development process and commended its role in preserving national security and confronting the dangers and challenges Egypt faces.
“What we have already accomplished in Egypt would have taken 30 years without the army’s efforts.”
On modernising the Armed Forces, which includes upgrading weapons systems across the board, the president said Egypt had no choice in the matter given it was the army’s duty to preserve national security and Egypt’s territorial integrity.
Commenting on the situation in Syria, Al-Sisi said Turkey’s ongoing military invasion had been made possible by the collapse of the Syrian army and the Syrian government’s losing control of the situation. He repeated his warnings against the consequences of attempts to spread chaos in Egypt, hinting that the chaos caused by the January 2011 uprising had provided Ethiopia with the opportunity to begin work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
He also noted that the region was subject to hostile information wars. “Every parent must explain to their children that not everything that appears on social media platforms is true,” he said.
Salah Sallam, a Sinai resident attending the seminar, asked the president why the families of civilian victims of terrorism did not receive the same compensation as military victims. Al-Sisi replied saying that the issue would be examined.
“If we can do it, we will do it,” he said.
Sallam then asked when those who had been displaced in Sinai could return to their homes.
President Al-Sisi objected to the terms of the question, saying there had been no displacement but rather evacuation, necessitated by national security requirements, and that the government has compensated all evacuees.
The development process in Sinai continues apace, said the president, and now includes plans to develop new Bedouin communities from scratch. Al-Sisi also talked about ongoing economic reforms, and the way they have been hailed by international financial institutions.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.