Updated: El-Sisi urges Gaza ceasefire during speech on revolution anniversary

Ahram Online, Wednesday 23 Jul 2014

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi touches on Gaza violence during speech to mark 1952 revolution, which he compared to recent uprisings

el sisi
Abdel Fattah el-Sissi speaks in a nationally televised broadcast in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)

In a speech marking the anniversary of the 23 July 1952 revolution which deposed Egypt's monarchy, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying that Egypt's borders with the battered enclave can be opened and that aid can be sent once a truce is in place.

All parties should negotiate the terms of the ceasefire, he added, and stressed that Egypt had not stipulated any conditions to any of the parties to reach a ceasefire.

"The initiative didn't include any conditions," El-Sisi said. "We said at first we will reach a ceasefire and then open the crossings so that aid can come in, and then the conflicting parties will sit at a negotiating table and we will move to help them reach a resolution."

El-Sisi said he did not wish to discuss the details of the truce proposal – proposed by Egypt last week – so as not to affect the negotiating process.

A senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday that talks were ongoing with Gaza rulers Hamas to put an end to the ongoing hostilities with Israel, adding that both sides had refused a humanitarian ceasefire.

Hamas said it would not accept an Egyptian proposal that called for a ceasefire followed by indirect talks and instead insisted on firm commitments to end Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

The offensive on Gaza has killed 649 Palestinians so far, many of them children and civilians, including a seven-year-old hit by a shell early on Wednesday in southern Gaza, a medic said.

El-Sisi asserted that Egypt has always stood with Palestine and would continue to do so.

"We will be standing next to our Palestinian martyrs as we have always done," El-Sisi said.

Great men, unfulfilled goals

The bulk of El-Sisi's speech, however, focused on the 23 July 1952 revolution, which he said was led by great men, in very hard conditions, and obliged the demands of the people.

The 1952 revolution was a peaceful movement – led by what was then a secret group within the army, called the Free Officers Movement – against King Farouk and eventually led to the end of the Egyptian monarchy.

El-Sisi praised the role of what he described as "great men" who made the 23 July 1952 anniversary possible, naming Egypt's first three presidents and founding members of the Free Officers Movement: Mohamed Naguib, Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar Sadat.

The goals of the 23 July revolution, as listed by El-Sisi, were to end colonialism, feudalism, form a strong Egyptian army, establish social justice and end the influence of the elite on the country's rulers.

El-Sisi then assessed the success of the 1952 revolution's goals, saying that although some demands were completely fulfilled, others were unsuccessful and thus drove people to revolt on 25 January 2011.

El-Sisi used this as an indication that the goals of a revolution "are not fulfilled in a year or two, but many years."

El-Sisi said that the "army acted as the champion of the people and the people acted as the champions of the army" during the 2011 uprising and the subsequent 30 June 2013 protests that led to the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

No matter the challenges that Egypt may face at the current time, there's no real danger if the people and the army are united, El-Sisi added.

New definitions

El-Sisi said that the 25 January 2011 uprising's goals of bread, freedom, social justice and human dignity are an extension of the 1952 revolution's goals.

He offered new definitions to the demands of 2011, saying that freedom is not only being able to express one's opinion but also to think freely without someone imposing a specific view or opinion on you.

El-Sisi said that this definition of freedom is what sparked the 30 June protests, as people felt that a specific viewpoint was being imposed on them, regardless of whether that view was right of wrong.

He added that "it's relative" with regards to whether the viewpoint is right or wrong.

The president said freedom is also the ability to have a good education, so one won't be a prisoner to his or her ignorance, poverty and helplessness.

El-Sisi defined social justice as having a free and rational economy, so that money can be used in the benefit of Egyptians instead of being used as a tool to pressure them.

He added that part of having social justice is providing unemployed youth with job opportunities, raising people's incomes and equipping the youth to be ready for the job market.

Current events

El-Sisi also mentioned a number of events that have taken place recently in Egypt and the region.

He commented on the killing of 21 Egyptian border guards last Saturday in Wadi Al-Gadid governorate's Al-Farafra, saying that he doesn't want Egyptians to feel puzzled, sad, defeated or pained.

He said that Egyptians should feel confident in themselves and that part of "themselves" is the army, which is made up of every Egyptian's sons, relatives and neighbors.

Meanwhile, El-Sisi praised Egyptians for their acceptance of a recent increase in fuel prices to decrease the budget deficit.

He said that analysts advised him against the decision, saying that it is a "dangerous move", but El-Sisi went against their advice as he was betting on the" great Egyptian" to withstand the increase in prices.

El-Sisi also said praised that some "poor Egyptians have the awareness, responsibility and tolerance to endure even harsher [austerity] measures."

Furthermore, El-Sisi touched on some plans for the next period that include developing 3000 km of roads, 10 percent of the roads in Egypt.

He also spoke jubilantly of a top-secret project, but refused to reveal it, only saying that it's a "very beautiful surprise".

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