Egypt's Sisi warns against Israeli strikes in Syria, says 'wars do not solve problems'

Ahram Online , Tuesday 7 Nov 2017

In an extensive interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed Egypt's strategic relations and the crises facing nations across the region

El-Sisi, Ghassan Charbel
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (L) and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor in Chief Ghassan Charbel (R) during an interview in Sharm El-Sheikh (Photo Courtesy of pan Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has expressed his concern over the prospect of Israeli military action against militias linked to Hezbollah and Iran in Syria near the occupied  Golan Heights, saying further military intervention will not bring peace to the region.

The president made the comments in an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum held in the Sinai resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

In the exclusive interview, published on Tuesday, El-Sisi covered a wide range of international issues, including water security, Egypt's key strategic relations and the various regional crises, particularly in Lebanon and Syria.

He addressed the possibility of Israel engaging in military action against militias linked to Hezbollah and Iran, both in south-western Syria and the Israel-occupied Golan Heights, saying that such actions might provoke further conflict.

“I hope this does not take place; the region has had its share of disturbances. Experiences throughout history show that wars do not solve problems, and what’s more dangerous than the military intervention itself are its further consequences," El-Sisi said.

"I call for the respect of Syria’s sovereignty and security and stability; more wars won’t solve the problem."

Referring to the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, he stressed Egypt’s support for the "territorial integrity of nation states against attempts at division over race or doctrine."

Crisis in Lebanon

On Lebanon and the possibility of a deterioration in Lebanese affairs following the recent resignation of Prime Minister Saad El-Hariri, El-Sisi said the maintenance of security and stability in Lebanon depends on achieving a "balance" between various parties.

“Such a balance needs to be maintained without any foreign interference,” he said, adding that any weakness in the state would give space to chaos and disorder.

The president's statements on Lebanon followed his meeting on Sunday with Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, during which he expressed Egypt’s desire to preserve peace and security in Lebanon. In Egypt's first official comment since the resignation of El-Hariri, the Egyptian president stressed the importance of averting internal tensions as well as religious or doctrinal extremism.

Gulf 'brothers'

El-Sisi also discussed the latest developments in Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt’s relationship with the Gulf country.

“I place on record my appreciation and respect for the Kingdom’s steps on various levels, which will have a positive impact, domestically and internationally,” El-Sisi said, describing the steps as "bold and well thought out".

He added that he was reassured by those elements in Saudi Arabia involved in fighting extremism and accentuating the values of openness and coexistence.

On relations between the two countries, as well as with the United Arab Emirates, El-Sisi said that it was important to protect the security of Arab nations.

“We’re always together. It’s clear. Stability in the Kingdom means stability for Egypt, and vice versa. This also applies to the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait,” he added.

He said that he and his "brothers" in the Gulf and other Arab states can fight terrorism if they are united, adding that those "evil powers" who seek to target Egypt are the same powers that seek to target the whole region.

'Evil powers'

El-Sisi elaborated that the "evil powers" are comprised of extremist organizations and countries in the region that aim to undermine stability, although he refrained from directly naming those states that sponsor terrorism.

“Our stance is clear. We have stated – with my brothers in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain – the names of those who support terrorism through money and weapons and the media,” he said.

When asked about Qatar, El-Sisi reiterated the demands put forward by Egypt, along with other Arab states boycotting Doha, including a halt to "Qatar’s sponsoring of terrorism, a halt to interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, and respect for the sovereignty of other nations."

“Our demands are legitimate, and the ball is in Qatar’s court. We want neither to impose our policies on others nor to interfere in their affairs, so we expect similar behaviour,” he said.

Nile water

El-Sisi also discussed negotiations with Ethiopia on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and its possible impact on Egypt’s share of Nile Water, describing it as a "pivotal and sensitive issue".

“We approach the issue based on a principle of preserving Egypt’s interests while acknowledging others' interests. We are not exaggerating when we say that the Nile for us is a matter of life or death,” El-Sisi said, stressing that all parties must persevere to reach a solution that benefits everyone.

The US and Russia

The Egyptian president also commented on the latest developments in Egypt's relations with the United States and Russia.

“We consider our relationship with the US a strategic one, and we are keen on it being stable, despite this relationship facing pressures in 2011,” he said.

According to El-Sisi, Egypt’s relationship with the US, specifically during the administration of President Donald Trump, will return to the firm ground of previous times, "and even more".

Egypt normally receives $1.3 billion annually in military assistance from the United States and nearly $250 million in economic aid.

In August, the US administration decided to withhold $195 million in aid and cut $95 million to Egypt, citing concerns over Cairo’s record on democracy and human rights.

El-Sisi and Trump met in the US in September, where the possibility of resuming aid was discussed.

On Russia, El-Sisi said Egypt was keen on expanding its fields of cooperation with other countries.

“It’s not necessary that a relationship with one state comes at the expanse of relations with another. The truth is we need cooperation in various fields, including combating terrorism, which is the most dangerous enemy to us,” he said.

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