World powers failed in making new Middle East: Egypt's El-Sisi

Ahram Online , Tuesday 28 Oct 2014

Saudi Arabian news paper Okaz interviews Egypt's president, who speaks on regional conflicts and Egypt's role in fighting terrorism

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi waits for a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told Saudi newspaper Okaz that "international forces" thought they could establish a new regional system to give them more influence – but failed.

In an interview published Tuesday, El-Sisi said the result was civil and sectarian war, the loss of the potential of the region's people and chaos.

The statement was in response to a question as to what he said during meetings with world powers during last month's United Nations General Assembly in New York.

El-Sisi is optimistic, however, about the future of the region.

"I think there is an increasing awareness from the different world powers, among them the major powers, concerning the truth of the situation in the region, and this awareness is crystallising in international efforts being spent on fighting terrorism," he said.

Egypt was among several Arab countries to join an international coalition led by the US to face the Islamist State militant group in Syria and Iraq.

In Tuesday's interview, El-Sisi denied claims from Okaz that Egypt wasn't committed to the coalition.

"Egypt was among the first countries to warn against the dangers of the spread of terrorism … We are currently involved in the international efforts against terrorism, and nothing proves this more than Egypt's participation in a recent Washington meeting of army chiefs-of-staff of several countries, while other countries in the coalition didn't attend," he said.

The Egyptian president maintained his praise of Saudi Arabian King Abdullah. Saudi Arabia became one of Egypt's main backers in its transitional period after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, giving billions of dollars in aid.

The relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is a fraternal one, El-Sisi said, insisting that the Gulf kingdom's support of Egypt safeguarded many states in the Middle East and was a result of its awareness of the dangers the region faced.

The president thanked King Abdullah for calling for a donor conference on behalf of Egypt, planned to take place in February in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

El-Sisi said there will be full coordination between Saudi Arabia and Egypt regarding the conference and pushing for its success. The conference will garner proposals for major logistical, industrial and agricultural investment projects, he said.

After recounting to Okaz the success of recent Egyptian military exercises that he said were the biggest with live ammunition in its history, El-Sisi assured that the Gulf's security is a red line.

Regional stance

Responding to an allegation posed by his interviewer that Egypt's position on the Syrian crisis and fighting in Iraq and Yemen was "unclear and confused," El-Sisi said Egypt is in favour of protecting the integrity of states and safeguarding their peoples' rights without favouritism towards regimes or partiality towards sects or ethnicities in any Arab country.

Partiality will only inflame conflicts, El-Sisi contended.

As such, he said Egypt's position towards Syria, Iraq or Yemen is clear and aims to preserve these states' regional integrity while also working towards finding political solutions for their crises.

"This gives Egypt greater credibility and wider acceptance than other parties with narrow interests towards a certain regime or members of a specific sect or ethnicity."

As for Turkey and Qatar – allies of the Muslim Brotherhood during Morsi's year in power but whose relations with Egypt have significantly soured since the group's removal from power last year – El-Sisi said both countries must first have the will to remove tensions and restore normal relations with Egypt before any steps for reconciliation can happen.

"Were there any practical steps taken suggesting the existence of this will and its sincerity?" El-Sisi asked rhetorically.

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