Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called for debt relief for the developing countries, especially the African and middle-income ones, in light of the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a recorded speech to the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday.
“The African continent has become the most affected by the coronavirus at a time when its peoples are facing other challenges that are not less serious than the coronavirus pandemic,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi affirmed the need to remove obstacles to the provision of coronavirus vaccines to all countries and to ensure fair distribution of vaccine doses, stressing the need for a quick and effective response to the needs of the African continent regarding coronavirus vaccines.
The Egyptian president warned against “the disparity in the paths of economic recovery among countries in accordance with their ability to secure the necessary number of vaccines”.
He said the advanced countries “monopolise the largest share of the world’s [vaccine] production.”
Localising Vaccine Manufacturing
In this regard, he stated that Egypt has been keen to localise coronavirus vaccine manufacturing “not only to meet the needs of its citizens, but also for exportation to the African continent”.
“The current circumstances have only exacerbated a reality that has been perpetuated for decades, which is insufficient regional and international cooperation,” El-Sisi stated, calling for expanding the scope of international support to the developing world "so that it covers the group of middle-income countries.”
The president said the fact that this group of countries embrace the majority of the world’s population “gives them central importance,” affirming that they represent a “main centre for the consumption of goods and services at the international level and a major driver of global economic growth.”
El-Sisi cited the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) approval of a general allocation of Special Drawing Rights equivalent to around $650 billion, urging the “exploration of appropriate ways to employ these resources to serve the needs of the developing world", including the low- and middle-income countries.
“Egypt calls for … facilitating the terms of borrowing from the international and regional institutions through providing instruments for concessional financing, encouraging investments and ensuring their continued flow to these countries,” El-Sisi said.
The president stressed that these measures represent a “vital factor in supporting the national efforts of development in accordance with the relevant regional and international agendas”.
GERD amid ‘intransigence, unjustified rejection’
El-Sisi, during the speech, highlighted the “intransigence and unjustified rejection” that has stained the decade-long negotiations between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute.
The president said the River Nile constitutes Egypt’s “only lifeline throughout history,” affirming that this explains “the overwhelming concern of the Egyptian citizens about the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”
“Perhaps you all know the outcome of the ongoing negotiations for a decade between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan as a result of known intransigence and unjustified rejection to deal positively with the process in its consecutive stages,” El-Sisi added.
The president also slammed the “adoption of unilateral approach and the policy of imposing the fait accompli” during the GERD negotiations, affirming that “this portends wide threat to the security and stability of the entire region.”
El-Sisi said that “Egypt, which recongises the developmental rights of its [African] brothers, is considered one of the most water-deficient countries and its people remains under the water poverty line”.
“Egypt is closely linked to its African reality that [the country] is very proud of and that is not only related to its geographic location; it is also related to its existence,” El-Sisi said.
He affirmed that cooperation among the African countries will “not be achieved by “one party defining the requirements of another, but this process must rather be reciprocal.”The 76th general debate of the UNGA – in which world leaders discuss global issues – is held from 21 to 25 September, and on 27 September 2021, pursuant to resolution 57/301.
The UNGA’s 76th session comes under the theme “Building resilience through hope – to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations.”
This year, the general debate session is being conducted in a hybrid fashion, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Heads of state or government may elect to either deliver their statement live from the podium in the General Assembly Hall, or have a delegate introduce their pre-recorded statement.
A number of world leaders have already delivered speeches including US President Joe Biden, while others like President of People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping had a pre-recorded speech.
Promoting human rights
El-Sisi said that human rights in Egypt have recently witnessed “clear progress.”
The president said that the National Strategy for Human Rights he launched earlier this month “is the best evidence of the comprehensive and constructive approach that my country is taking regarding human rights issues and topics.”
Eliminating terrorism comprehensively
El-Sisi affirmed the need to face terrorism and extremism through a comprehensive approach, saying that this requires national efforts and international cooperation.
“Terrorism cannot be eliminated except through facing the takfiri and extremist thought … within the framework of a comprehensive approach that is not limited to the security approach,” El-Sisi said.
Sisi emphasized the need to for a new comprehensive approach that includes social, developmental and ideological dimensions.
El-Sisi also called for holding state sponsors of terrorism accountable and that countries that “harbor terrorists and foreign fighters.”
El-Sisi said that securing sanctuary and support for terrorists and facilitating their transference across these countries’ lands threaten international security and peace.
Fair solution to Palestinian cause
El-Sisi underlined the need to reach a fair solution to the Palestinian cause through negotiations in accordance with relevant international legitimacy resolutions.
“Egypt has repeatedly affirmed that there is no way to stabilise the Middle East without reaching a fair, permanent and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause, which was and still the central issue for the Arab nation,” El-Sisi said.
This should be achieved “through negotiations based on the international legitimacy resolutions to establish the Palestinian state on the borders of June 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital,” El-Sisi clarified.
The president affirmed the need to consolidate the Egypt-sponsored ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Gaza Strip reached on 20 May 2021.
The 11 days of the Israeli aggression on the strip in May left more than 250 Palestinians dead, including 66 children, and more than 1,900 injured, in addition to the destruction of hundreds of commercial and residential buildings in the enclave.
“Egypt also calls the international community to take all the required measures to improve the living situations of the Palestinian people and deliver the humanitarian aid to them,” El-Sisi said, referring to the $500 million that was pledged by the Egyptian state for the reconstruction of the strip.
Egypt started sending building equipment, engineers, and workers to the enclave in June as part of its initiative to help reconstruct the enclave, and has almost concluded the first stage of the process that included the removal of debris.
He also highlighted the need for the international community to urge donor parties to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in preparation for the launch of the reconstruction process in Gaza.
‘Upholding national state concept’
El-Sisi also called for “upholding the comprehensive concept of the national state,” saying this concept is being threatened by multiple disturbance factors in the Middle East countries.
“The Middle East, while is characterized by a unique strategic location, also occupies an advanced position on the list of the world's most disturbed regions,” the president said.
He affirmed that this imposes additional challenges to the Middle East countries besides the other joint challenges they share with the world.
The essence of the disturbance factors threatening the concept of the national state in the Middle East countries “lie in the division and fragmentation with all of its different kinds, whether it is sectarian, political or ethnic,” El-Sisi said.
“This makes countries rich in natural resources, history and ancient civilisation like the sisterly Iraq, or in cultural and religious and sectarian diversity like Lebanon and Syria, or in resources, wealth and special location like Libya or [those enjoying] strategic position like Yemen suffer from this number of huge challenges,” El-Sisi said.
He said this affirms that “upholding the comprehensive concept of the national state that does not differentiate between the people of the same country and prevents interference in Arab affairs is indispensable.”