Egypt waiting on results of Gulf's truce with Qatar, says El-Sisi

Ahram Online , Thursday 20 Nov 2014

Egypt won't make any reconciliation efforts of its own until it sees how recent agreement with Gulf states turns out

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Photo: reuters)
In what is considered his first direct reaction on Gulf states' reconciliation with Qatar, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told France 24 on Thursday that Egypt was still waiting for the results of the agreement before taking any steps of its own.
El-Sisi's statement comes a day after Egypt's presidency said it welcomed the reconciliation with Qatar.
In a summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates agreed to return their ambassadors to Doha, ending a months-long dispute between the Gulf Arab allies.
Official relations between Egypt and Qatar have deteriorated rapidly following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, as Doha – a backer of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails – criticised the Islamist's removal.
El-Sisi's interview with France 24 on Thursday comes before his trip to France and Italy next week, his first official visit to Europe since winning June's presidential election by a landslide.
In his comments, the president also revealed he was considering offering a presidential pardon for three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Egypt since late 2013 on charges of airing false news and joining a terrorist group. 
Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were sentenced in June to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years, a verdict that drew widespread condemnation as world leaders called for their release.
"I was not in charge when they were arrested," El-Sisi said on Thursday, echoing previous comments he has made about the case. "If it were up to me, I would have them deported to their countries immediately."
While in the past he has insisted he won't interfere in the case, citing the judiciary's independence, he said on Thursday that the three journalists could be pardoned if it were in the best interest of Egypt's national security.
Last week El-Sisi issued a law allowing non-Egyptian defendants on trial or convicts to be sent home to be tried or finish out their sentences.
Meanwhile, the president on Thursday denied that Egypt has any ground troops or air forces in Libya – dismissing previous claims that Egypt and the UAE were participating in joint air strikes against Islamist militias in the North African neighbour.
"We support the official Libyan army and we only protect our western borders," said El-Sisi.
Regarding the situation in Sinai – home to a militant insurgency which the army has tried to contain – El-Sisi said recent decisions and procedures taken in the area aim to prove Egypt's sovereignty in Sinai as well to prevent the peninsula from turning into a threat or "backstage" from which to launch attacks against Israel.
Hundreds of army and police personnel have been killed in militant attacks in Sinai since Morsi's removal, as citizens have also been caught up in the violence as the attacks have spread to Cairo and the Nile Delta.
The army says it has killed a similar number of militants.
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