Egypt fights ISIS with 'politics and religion', not its army: FM

Ahram Online, Thursday 25 Sep 2014

Egypt's foreign minister tells CNN that the army will not necessarily join in striking Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria

Sameh Shoukry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: Ahram)

Egypt's role against the Islamic State (IS) will be a "political and religious" one, and not necessarily involve its military, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Wednesday.

"At this moment we are concentrating on political [efforts]," Shoukry told CNN on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

"We are concentrating on utilising our religious institutions to impact the ability of these organisations to recruit new fighters and of course to cut off the funding and to provide information," he said.

The US and its Arab allies including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates struck IS jihadists in Syria on Tuesday.

Egypt and nine other Arab states formed a coalition with the US earlier in September to collaborate against the militant group.

In an earlier interview with CBS, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi seemed reluctant to reveal details about his country's potential role in the fight against IS.

"The idea is [that] the coalition is formed and we are part of this coalition and the symbolism is there with our public announcement that we are part of the coalition," he said on Monday.

However, Shoukry said that Egypt is in "close cooperation with the information and intelligence fields of the US and other European partners," adding that he believes it is important for members of the coalition "to have various roles".

"Our military's doctrine has always been a defensive one - to protect the Egyptian territory and people," he said.

Egypt receives $1.3 billion in annual military aid from the US. However, the delivery of military hardware was withled by Washington since last year after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi as the US expressed concern over a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group and Islamist sympathisers.

In April, the US announced it had decided to lift its hold on the delivery of attack helicopters to Egypt. This was recently reiterated by several US officials, but Egypt has yet to receive them.

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