Egypt’s strong military capabilities helped achieve stability in the region, Europe: FM

Amr Kandil , Saturday 12 Feb 2022

Egypt’s strong military capabilities have contributed to achieving security and stability in the region and Europe, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said in a press conference with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, on Saturday.

 Egyptian, German
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry holds bilateral discussions with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, in Cairo, 12 February 2022. Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“We cooperate on the basis of mutual understanding of the challenges that we face and Egypt’s recourse to Germany for its arming needs is a means to protect its national security and borders,” Shoukry said in response to question about Egypt’s reaction in case Germany decided to stop exporting weapons to Egypt.

German arms sales to Egypt hit record levels in 2021, as Egypt received weapons worth €4.34 billion, mainly air defence systems and maritime equipment, according to figures published by the German Economic Affairs and Climate Action Ministry last month.

Shoukry said Egypt’s achievements regarding security and stability in the region had a direct impact on security and stability in Europe, highlighting the country’s efforts to stop all forms of irregular migration to Europe since September 2016, saying “such matters are of concern to our European partners.”

“Thanks to its enhanced military capabilities, Egypt also managed to face terrorist organisations’ fierce attacks that targeted security and stability,” Shoukry said, affirming that army and police forces as well as innocent civilians have paid the cost of such attacks.

“If there is a desire to reduce Egypt’s ability to do so, then… we will have to find the means that enable us to defend ourselves and continue to play our responsible role in maintaining peace and security in the Middle East, Africa, and the world,” Shoukry said.

He added that Egypt will find these means “through positive partnerships and exchange of interests that are consistent with international laws.”

Shoukry’s remarks came after Baerbock said Germany will follow a “severely restrictive policy” regarding arms export under a planned legislation. She affirmed that such legislation will impact large importers of German weapons.

The German FM said human rights will play a big role in this legislation, adding that human rights include economic and social rights besides political and civil rights.

Egypt has reiterated on many occasions that it does not establish international relations on “a basis of conditionality,” Shoukry said. Instead, Egypt’s international relations with other countries are based on mutual respect and interests and non-interference in domestic affairs, he added.

“The Egyptian military doctrine is based on the defence of Egyptian lands and Egypt has not carried out any act of aggression,” Shoukry said.

He affirmed that Egypt will continue to carry out the role of preventing terrorist attacks from reaching European territories, underscoring the “destructive impact” of these attacks on the security of European citizens, including Germans.

Shoukry received Baerbock on Saturday on her first visit to Egypt within the framework of the bilateral relations gathering the two countries, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Shoukry’s bilateral discussions with Baerbock seek to “build on the success achieved in various fields” of cooperation between Egypt and Germany, the ministry added.

Baerbock’s two-day visit to Egypt comes as part of her Middle East tour, which included Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, where she discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in light of the crucial role played by Egypt and Jordan in this regard.

Egypt and Jordan have been in talks with regional and international sides to revive the long-frozen talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in accordance with international resolutions, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the two-state solution, with the aim of establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In December, Shoukry, Jordan’s FM Ayman Safadi, and Palestine’s Minister of Civil Aviation Hussein Al-Sheikh held a meeting in Cairo to discuss proposals to break the current stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The meeting aimed to coordinate stances and visions on how to follow up on the outcome of the trilateral summit between the leaders of the three countries in Cairo last September.

Baerbock, 41, the German FM under German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, is the first woman-ever to serve in the post of FM in Germany and also the youngest-ever to hold the post.

Scholz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), was sworn in as Germany’s chancellor in December.

During her visit, Baerbock is set to discuss potential areas of cooperation on the 27th session of the United Nations’ Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 27), which will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

German Ambassador in Cairo Frank Hartmann voiced pleasure at Baerbock’s early visit, noting that it “demonstrates Germany’s willingness to maintain a high-level dialogue with Egypt on regional and bilateral issues, as well as international cooperation on climate change.”

Significant cooperative relations

Over the past decade, Egypt and Germany have significantly intensified their economic and developmental cooperation, with around 1,180 German companies currently operating in all economic sectors.

Areas of cooperation between the two countries have comprised numerous fields, including the water sector, wastewater management, energy, and shipbuilding.

Up till March last year, Egypt and Germany shared a trade volume of around $4.12 billion, a statement by the German Federal Foreign Office said in February.

Egypt is one of Germany’s largest development cooperation partners through intergovernmental agreements with €1.6 billion in loans and subsidies recorded, according to the office.

“Egypt’s political, economic, and military significance in the Middle East and North Africa region makes it an important partner for German development cooperation,” the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) said.

Besides cooperation between Egypt and German on priority sectors, including sustainable economic development and urban development, the BMZ also works on helping Egypt step up its efforts to ensure the participation of civil society organisations and the economic empowerment of women.

Concerning tourism, although the number of German tourists dropped in light of the coronavirus pandemic, around 1.8 million German tourists visited Egypt in 2019, making up the largest group of foreign tourists in the country, according to the German Federal Foreign Office.

There are also seven German Schools in Egypt, which are attended by around 4000 students, said the office.

In August, the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation said Germany will allocate soft development funds to the tune of €151.5 million to finance 15 development projects in eight sectors in Egypt.

The sectors are technical education, vocational training, innovation in the private sector, migration, labour, administrative reform, urban development, and renewable energy.

Earlier last year, Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat inked a development financing agreement grant worth €57.7 million with Former German Ambassador in Cairo Cyrill Jean Nunn.

The international cooperation ministry said in May that its ongoing cooperation portfolio with Germany amounts to €1.7 billion, which has funded 30 projects, either through loans or technical and financial grants benefiting many sectors.

This covers various sectors, including solid waste management, migration, the labour market, private sector support, technical education, vocational training, urban development and administrative reform, development of women and youths, and community development, according to the ministry.

Politically, Egypt and Germany have shared similar visions regarding many issues, including Libya, with Egypt participating in the two editions of the Berlin conference, which were held over the past two years to help achieve political stability in the Arab country.

Moreover, El-Sisi held several meetings with former German chancellor Angela Merkel throughout his ongoing tenure, the last of which was through a video conferencing call shortly before she left office. They also met during the COP 26that was held in Glasgow, UK, last November.

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