Egypt's Sisi, Portugal's Rebelo de Sousa highlight close ties, 'new cycle' in relations during Cairo talks

Ahram Online , Thursday 12 Apr 2018

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (AFP)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi praised on Thursday growing cooperation between Cairo and Lisbon as he received his Portuguese counterpart in the Egyptian capital, in the first such visit by a Portuguese president in more than two decades.

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and El-Sisi held "constructive talks" in which they discussed cooperation between the two countries over the past two years, El-Sisi told a press conference broadcast live on state television.

They also addressed the outcome of meetings of a bilateral commission of foreign ministers of the two countries held in Cairo in October last year, El-Sisi said.

The two leaders on Thursday signed a memorandum of understanding between the Camões Institute of Cooperation and Language at the University of Porto and Cairo's Ain Shams University.

The deal is "a sign of how deep we want our cultural relationship to be," the Portuguese president told the conference.

Another memorandum of understanding was signed between the economic zone of Egypt's Suez Canal and Portugal's industrial plant management company AICEP Global Parks, Rebelo de Sousa said.

"We have agreed today to continue working closely to advance our bilateral relations to greater horizons, maximise the use from available potential and opportunism and speed up the implementation of signed agreements and memorandums of understanding," El-Sisi told the press conference.

The last visit by a Portuguese head of state to Cairo took place in 1995.

Rebelo de Sousa said his visit is starting "a new cycle" of "not only very good political relationship but also economic, cultural and social relationships between the two peoples and the two countries."

"We can work together concerning the region, concerning Africa and concerning the world. You can count on us, we shall count on you," he said.

During Tuesday's talks, the two leaders discussed the fight against terrorism and eliminating its source of funding, Egyptian-European partnerships, and boosting European Union (EU) cooperation in Africa.

El-Sisi urged greater cooperation between the two countries to fight terrorism and extremism, organised crime, illegal migration and regional agendas to sow instability in the region.

His Portuguese counterpart called for cooperation in social development and health care. "We could and shall cooperate in that field."

He said the two countries "have many common fields of action bilaterally and multilaterally."

He referred to economy, trade and investment ties as well as cooperation opportunities in infrastructure, tourism, environment energy, water supply and good governance. At an international level, he said the two countries have been working together at the UN.

Bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to 218 million euros in 2017, while Portugal has an estimated $404.7 million-worth of investment in Egypt, Egypt's trade minister said last month.

El-Sisi visited Portugal in November 2016, the first such visit by an Egyptian leader in over a decade since former President Hosni Mubarak visited the country in December 2007 for an African-European summit.

The landmark trip was described by Egypt at the time as "a turning point" in economic and political ties between the two countries as well as a fundamental boost to Egypt-EU ties.

Rebelo de Sousa arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for a three-day visit. Following the talks with El-Sisi, the Portuguese president met with Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, and visited Al-Azhar University, where he delivered a speech to Muslim clerics and students.

He is due to meet Egyptian parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and attend the closing session of an Portugal-Egypt economic forum on Thursday afternoon.

On Friday, he is scheduled to meet Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and visit the Pyramids of Giza, the website of the Portuguese presidency said.

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