Sisi urges European leaders to secure ceasefire in Gaza

Ahram Online , Monday 18 Mar 2024

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi urged on Sunday the European leaders to exert substantial efforts to secure an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and to scale up humanitarian assistance and relief to alleviate the devastating humanitarian catastrophe endured by the Palestinian people there.

This handout picture provided by the Cypriot government s Press and Information Office (PIO) shows (L to R) Austria s Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Greece s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Egypt s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides, Belgium s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and Italy s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni giving joint statements after their summit in Cairo. AFP


El-Sisi's remarks came during a press conference with the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, along with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

According to El-Sisi, the talks addressed the pressing regional and international issues of mutual concern, with a special focus on the Palestinian cause and the war in the Gaza Strip, wherein the Egyptian President emphasised with utmost urgency the inevitability of a ceasefire and the end to Israel’s hostilities in the strip.

They further agreed on the categorical rejection of an Israeli military operation in the City of Rafah, which would exacerbate the already deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the sector and drive towards liquidating the Palestinian cause, according to El-Sisi.

In this regard, El-Sisi reaffirmed Cairo's unshakeable and immutable rejection of any attempt by Israel to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from their lands, which have been occupied since 1967, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

He also reviewed Egypt’s massive efforts to resolve the crisis, stressing the need to address the Palestinian cause from a holistic and integrated point of view that secures the Palestinians' right to establish their independent state on the 4th of June 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In addition, El-Sisi reiterated that the suffering of the Palestinian people across the occupied Palestinian territories over the past decades will show no signs of abating until earnest efforts resume to recognize a Palestinian state that is a full member of the United Nations based on the implementation of the two-state solution in line with international references.

"The procrastination in resolving this issue exposes the region and the whole world to a state of instability," El-Sisi stressed.

Energy cooperation

During the press conference, El-Sisi placed special emphasis on energy as a key area for cooperation between Egypt and the EU, focusing on natural gas and electricity interconnection.

He highlighted that the two sides agreed to collaborate on green hydrogen production as a clean source of energy and stressed their commitment to advancing cooperation within the framework of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, which he described as crucial for ensuring energy security, both regionally and internationally.

El-Sisi further declared that Egypt and the EU have achieved significant progress in their partnership and referred to the “Joint Political Declaration” as a milestone on the path of upgrading relations between the two sides to the level of Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership.

He also highlighted the EU’s €7.4 billion financial package to bolster the Egyptian economy, noting that the package includes concessional financing, investment guarantees, and technical support for bilateral cooperation projects.

Furthermore, El-Sisi announced that an investment conference between Egypt and the EU would be held in the second half of 2024. The conference, he explained, would showcase Egypt’s diverse investment opportunities to attract European countries to the Egyptian market.

Irregular migration

Moreover, El-Sisi stated that the talks touched on cooperation on irregular migration.

“We confirmed our unwavering commitment to combating this phenomenon through our persistent collaborative efforts,” he said, adding that these efforts tackle the root causes of the phenomenon by development-focused solutions and improving regular migration routes.

El-Sisi noted that the meeting saw unanimous agreement on the cardinal importance of strengthening Egypt’s efforts in combatting irregular migration, highlighting that such efforts proved effective in curbing the influx of illegal migration from Egyptian coasts since 2006.

El-Sisi concluded by reiterating that Egypt hosts nine million foreigners who enjoy the same social and health benefits as Egyptian citizens.


Six European leaders in Cairo

For her part, the President of the European Commission affirmed that the partnership between Egypt and the EU is of critical importance. “The presence of six European Leaders today shows how deeply we value our relationship,” she said.

Furthermore, she said that Egypt and the EU share strategic interests in stability and prosperity, stressing that the importance of their relations will only increase over time, given Egypt’s political and economic weight and its strategic location in a very troubled neighbourhood.

The European Commission President further said that the European leaders’ visit and strong representation in Cairo reflects the strength of their bilateral ties and marks a historic milestone through signing the joint declaration for a strategic and comprehensive partnership. 

On a different note, von der Leyen expressed her concern over the war in Gaza and the unfolding catastrophic humanitarian situation there.

“Gaza is facing famine. And we cannot accept this. It is critical to achieve an agreement on a rapid ceasefire that frees the hostages and allows more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza,” she stressed.

In addition, she expressed her concern about the risks a full-scale offensive in Rafah would have on the vulnerable civilian population. “This needs to be avoided at all costs,” she said.

Moreover, von der Leyen extended her thanks to Egypt for its extraordinary efforts to ensure that humanitarian supplies reach Gaza.

“Current events confirm once again the vital role that Egypt plays in the stability and security of the region,” she said, noting that these challenging times have shown the value and strength of Egypt-EU bilateral cooperation and relationship.

El-Sisi's press conference came on the sidelines of the European-Egyptian Summit, which was held earlier on Sunday in Cairo.

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