In a recorded speech in the opening session, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stressed his support for the National Dialogue, vowing to "provide all the means to ensure its success and activate its outcomes within a framework of democracy and effective political practice."
El-Sisi called on the participants to work for the success of the dialogue and to find solutions to the nation's challenges.
The opening of the National Dialogue comes a year after President El-Sisi called, in April 2022, for a dialogue between all political forces without exception or discrimination to find common grounds on priority political, social, and economic issues.
“My call for the National Dialogue during the Egyptian Family Iftar banquet (2022) reflected my firm belief in the ability of our nation to find alternatives and achieve progress in the political, economic and social fields,” El-Sisi said.
He added that Egypt also possesses “competent minds, sincere wills and a determination to work”, all of which put Egypt in the lead.
The president also highlighted the dialogue's significance in facing the growing challenges.
“The growing challenges facing the Egyptian nation at all levels convinces me of the necessity of such a dialogue,” El-Sisi stated.
He added that he looks forward to a comprehensive, effective, and vital dialogue that embraces all viewpoints and achieves tangible and successful outcomes.
“Differences in opinion shall not divide us,” the president said, stressing that the diverse viewpoints within the dialogue are conducive to successful outcomes.
“I wish you success in this great patriotic duty,” El-Sisi said, thanking participants who gathered today for the dialogue.
“I appreciate your coming here together to talk and exchange views on what is best for our dear nation and to draw the features of our new republic and the modern democratic country that all Egyptians aspire to," he stressed.
The president added that the dialogue also aims to “draw a roadmap of a promising and bright future that befits our children and grandchildren.”
El-Sisi said he looks forward to participating in the final phases of the dialogue.
'The path is difficult and the challenges unprecedented'
Former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, who represents the 50-member committee, also delivered a speech during the opening session of the dialogue.
Moussa indicated that the National dialogue is an opportunity to discuss what concerns public opinion in Egypt, especially at this critical stage and in light of recent regional and international developments.
“ I participate not only as the head of the 50-member committee but also as a concerned citizen who understands the challenges Egypt faces domestically and internationally,” he said.
Moussa added that he was well acquainted with Egyptian politics throughout the second half of the 20th century, highlighting that with the advent of the 21st century, Egypt began to face more problems.
“Therefore, we are facing a dangerous situation which compels us to speak frankly and listen to all opinions, just as President El-Sisi said,” Moussa said.
He added that the Egyptian people at this stage are very anxious. They are asking questions about the direction Egypt is heading towards, said Moussa.
He also said that people must be given an honest answer no matter how shocking it may be and should be prepared for an uncertain future.
State institutions, including the National Dialogue, are responsible for providing such an answer, said Moussa.
He highlighted that the path is arduous and that the challenges are unprecedented, stressing that the challenges facing Egypt are not entirely external and that some of them have resulted from internal mistakes that have to be addressed.
Moussa, however, asserted that he was very confident in the Egyptian people's ability to overcome these challenges.
Speaking of the middle class, he said that due care should be given to the stability and prosperity of the middle class.
He also said that the time has come to deal conclusively with pre-trial detainees.
Moussa said that Sinai must be rehabilitated and opened for citizens to live in, adding that people should be allowed to enter and exit Sinai freely. He also called for preserving its holy places.
Moussa praised the achievements made in the past few years in Egypt, especially the efforts to solve the problem of shanty towns in Cairo.
He called on the state to find solutions for shanty towns all over Egypt.
The former Secretary General of the Arab League also praised El-Sisi's call to renew religious discourse, citing the “Document of Human Fraternity” signed by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb and Pope Francis.
Moussa also praised the progress in the fields of citizenship, women’s rights, youth empowerment, as well as the development of Sinai.
At the end of his speech, he said that the dialogue's outcomes should be presented to President El-Sisi and the parliament as a representative of the people.
The meeting is seeing the attendance of about 1,000 participants, including Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, dialogue rapporteurs, media professionals and writers, heads of universities and research centres, members of parliament, religious figures and youth from different political forces.
Two meetings will follow the opening session to pinpoint the issues to be discussed in the subsequent sessions and the role of political parties in the National Dialogue.