Egypt's FM says reinforcing joint Arab action 'has become more urgent' amid challenges facing Arab world

Ahmed Morsy , Wednesday 9 Sep 2020

Shoukry made the remarks while addressing 154th session of AL Council, which convened virtual meeting at level of Foreign Arab Ministers

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during the 154th session of the Arab League (AL) Council that convened a virtual meeting on Wednesday (Photo courtesy of Foreign Ministry)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Wednesday that strengthening joint Arab action "has become more urgent" in light of the continuing conflicts and multiple challenges that ravage the Arab world, "which is witnessing unprecedented destructive foreign interventions that negatively affect the stability of the Arab region and seek to undermine the concepts of the nation state and fuel sectarian tendencies."

Shoukry made the remarks while addressing the 154th session of the Arab League (AL) Council, which convened a virtual meeting on Wednesday at the level of Foreign Arab Ministers that was under the chairmanship of Palestine.

Shoukry tackled in his speech various crucial issues among which is the Palestinian cause, Libya, Turkish interference in domestic Arab affairs, Syria, and the Lebanon crisis.

Palestinian cause

The Egyptian foreign minister said that the Palestinian cause "is still the central issue of the Arabs… [but] it is still far from the desired settlement."

"In order for the brotherly Palestinian people to fully obtain their legitimate rights and overcome the vestiges of the past, a sustainable and just solution to the Palestinian cause must be achieved in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, the principle of the two-state solution, and the Arab Peace Initiative," Shoukry told the Arab foreign ministers.

So, to achieve this, Shoukry says, there must be political will on the part of the various actors and parties, and any unilateral steps that would undermine the chances of establishing a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the borders of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, should be stopped.

Such steps include any efforts to annex Palestinian lands, which in accordance with international law are a right that must be restored in order to establish an independent Palestinian state, he stated.

In this context, Shoukry adds, the recent announcement of the suspension of annexation is a temporary step that "must be permanent"... in order to maintain the climate that "we all need" to move forward and reach a solution.

In August, US President Donald Trump announced that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The move has been hailed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who described it as one that would "bring peace to the Middle East."

“I followed with great interest and appreciation the tripartite joint statement between the United States, the fraternal United Arab Emirates, and Israel, regarding the agreement to suspend the annexation of Palestinian territories and to take steps that would bring peace to the Middle East," El-Sisi wrote on his official social media accounts on 13 August.

On Libya

On Libya, Shoukry said that the crisis continues in the neighbouring country, with which Egypt has close relations on all levels, and that the various developments in Libya have a direct impact on Egypt’s national security.

Since 2014, the oil-rich country has been split between two rival administrations in the east and west with parallel institutions.

The eastern government is represented by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives allied with the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Commander Khalifa Haftar, while the west is represented by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

"We have seen and monitored, as has everyone, the destabilising Turkish interventions in Libya, which involve practices that prolong the conflict, not only in Libya, but in the entire region," Shoukry said.

The FM said that these Turkish actions include its "documented involvement in transporting mercenaries and terrorist elements from the Syrian territories in an effort to reproduce in Libya the conditions brought about by Turkish intervention in Syria, striking against international conventions and norms in pursuit of a false hope of restoring a past that carries nothing but instability for our region."

The GNA is backed by Qatar, Turkish troops, and thousands of Syrian mercenaries, while Egypt, France, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates back the LNA — which is allied to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

Various regional and European countries have repeatedly accused Turkey of violating a United Nations arms embargo that has been in place since 2011.

"In the face of Turkish ambitions that are evident in northern Iraq, Syria and Libya in particular, Egypt will not stand idly by, but rather it has taken a position," Shoukry stated.

On 20 June, El-Sisi called on the Libyan parties to respect the current lines and start negotiations, adding that "Libya's Sirte and Al-Jufra are considered the red line for Egyptian national security."

El-Sisi at the time emphasised that Egypt has no ambitions in Libya, and only wishes to restore security and stability in the country.

"We will not be invaders… we only want a stable, safe and developed Libya," the Egyptian president said, calling for a comprehensive settlement in Libya that involves the elimination of terrorist militias. He added that the settlement should have had participated in Libya-related international conferences and supported crisis-resolution efforts. 

On 6 June, El-Sisi announced the Libyan-Libyan Cairo Declaration initiative, which was in line with international accords and efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis.

The Cairo Declaration is a joint political initiative announced by El-Sisi, Haftar, and Libya's parliament speaker Aguila Saleh to resolve the Libyan crisis and end the armed conflict in the Arab country.

The initiative, which has been welcomed by various foreign and Arab countries, mandates an intra-Libyan resolution as a basis for resolving the country’s conflict under resolutions by the UN and past efforts in Paris, Rome, Abu Dhabi, and most recently in Berlin.

Foreign interference in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq

In Syria, Shoukry said that foreign interference "continues to play a destructive role" that aims to harm Arab national security.

"The blatant Turkish interventions – which can be described as a state of occupation – are continuing in Syria," the foreign minister said.

Shoukry reiterated that there is no alternative to resuming a political process in Syria that leads to a comprehensive peace settlement by implementing the relevant Security Council resolutions.

In Yemen, Shoukry said, some regional parties continue to try to tamper with Arab national security, which poses a direct threat to the security of the Arab Gulf states, he said.

"In this context, Egypt reaffirms that the security of the Gulf and the Red Sea is directly linked to that of Egypt, which strongly condemns all attacks against the fraternal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the foreign minister said, stressing the need to “implement all relevant Security Council resolutions, foremost of which is the Council resolution Security No. 2216.”

Shoukry also reaffirmed Egypt's full support for Iraq in the face of the continuing Turkish aggressions on its borders, declaring Egypt’s full solidarity with the Iraqi government in any measures it takes in the face of these blatant interventions.

He also hailed the tripartite summit between Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, describing it as an opportunity to work to strengthen joint Arab action once again in the face of the increasing challenges that Arabs face from inside and out.

"Such challenges compel us to launch a comprehensive Arab project based on achieving interests and playing an influential role on the regional and international arenas," he added.

The tripartite summit, which was held in Amman on 25 August, addressed enhancing cooperation in all fields, especially in energy, power linkages, infrastructure, and food.

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