Supporting the pillars of stability in the Middle East is one of the objectives of Egypt’s foreign policy during President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s era.
This is what the president’s speeches always point to on different occasions through the recurrent use of certain vocabulary, such as “internal stability”, “homelands’ stability”, “consolidation of state stability”, “the region’s stability”, “secure and stable environment” and “the value of security, safety, and stability”, as well as interactions between Cairo and its regional sphere.
This has been reflected by different actions illustrating compatibility between approach and behaviour; the attempt to resolve the Libyan conflict, backing the Lebanese government, reinforcing the Arabian Gulf’s security, elevating the level of relations with Iraq and Jordan, institutionalising security and intelligence aspects among Arab countries via a regular platform, and addressing neighbouring countries’ interferences in Arab countries’ internal affairs.
Movements exerted by the Egyptian presidency and Foreign Ministry during the last month echoed the governing trends of Egypt’s policy path towards resolving armed conflicts in the Arab world or regional interferences in Arab affairs, as the following points will demonstrate:
1- The attempt to resolve the Libyan conflict:
Egypt is considered the main regional power that has balanced relations with the conflicting parties in Libya, whether in the east or in the west, and also among tribes.
Thus, Cairo was the first destination of the new Libyan Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah, which he visited on 18 February, where he expressed his appreciation of Egypt’s efforts in resolving the Libyan conflict, seeking to end division, and supporting the country’s institutions in confronting terrorist organisations.
During his meeting with Dbeibah, President El-Sisi was keen to assert Egypt’s support to firmly establish the pillars of the new Libyan state in three main aspects,.
These aspects are establishing the pillars of the new state, restoring security, and implementing services and developmental projects that have a direct impact on Libyans, especially those related to reconstruction efforts and supporting stability in a later stage after the withdrawal of foreign troops.
2- Backing the Lebanese government:
This was quite evident during the meeting between President El-Sisi and Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri on 3 February. The meeting showed El-Sisi’s keenness to rescue Lebanon out of its crisis through resolving disputes among political currents, lifting national interest above partisan interests, and speeding up efforts to form a government capable of dealing with current challenges.
Egypt's support to Lebanon is also manifested in Egyptian aid to Lebanon in the wake of the explosion at Beirut’s harbour and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Al-Hariri, at the end of the meeting, described Egypt’s role as “a main pillar in keeping peace in Lebanon and the entire Arab region.”
3- Reinforcement of the Arabian Gulf’s security:
During his meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Secretary-General Nayef Al-Hajraf on 7 February, El-Sisi stressed the uniqueness of Egyptian-Gulf relations and that the security of the Arabian Gulf is interlinked to Egypt’s national security as one of Egypt’s policy constants.
This comes within the frame of Egypt’s regional role to establish security, stability, and development.
Perhaps this became apparent from Al-Hajraf’s praise of Egypt’s continuous keenness towards closing ranks and the enhancement of Arab joint work in the face of the enormous challenges the region’s countries are witnessing.
The Egyptian endeavour to promote regional stability was also obvious during the meeting between El-Sisi and Saudi State Minister Issam Bin Saeed on 11 February; marking Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu-Dhabi as a strategic trio that support stability in the Middle East.
4- Raising the level of relations with Iraq and Jordan:
Egypt’s policy is heading towards enhancing its relations with Iraq and Jordan, with some writers describing the joint efforts “The New Orient” or “The New Levant”.
Here, it is noteworthy to mention that El-Sisi’s asserted, during his meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein on 10 February, the importance of enhancing Egyptian-Iraqi relations in different fields in a way that preserves Arab national security, in light of Cairo’s perception of Iraqi institutions’ pivotal role in combating cross-border terrorism.
There is Egyptian-Iraqi-Jordanian consensus on supporting the region’s security, which was echoed by a tripartite mechanism meeting on 8 February. The three sides have also agreed on increasing economic and investment cooperation, especially in the field of energy,.
It is important to also mention that Egypt will be sharing with Iraq the Egyptian experience in constructing new cities, which Baghdad will be in need of after terrorist organisations, which hamper progress, are dealt with.
5- Institutionalising the security and intelligence sphere among Arab countries:
Arab countries are confronting multiple threats, including infringment on their structures, the growing danger of terrorist organisations, and the expansion of organised crime, which all requires cooperation and joint security coordination.
Thus, El-Sisi stressed in his speech during the inauguration of the Arab Intelligence Forum headquarters on 1 February “the importance of collective action in the framework of Arab brotherhood to restore stability in all the region’s countries, especially in areas that witness instability and crises due to activities of terrorist groups, which are backed by foreign regional and international powers aiming to create chaos in order to control the destinies of our beloved nations."
6- Addressing neighbouring countries’ interferences in Arab countries’ internal affairs:
Egypt endeavours to address regional interferences, demonstrated by Turkey and Iran supporting armed local agents and transporting terrorists to some hotspots.
Hence, indicators show a prolonging of conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, and the obstruction of stability in the eastern Mediterranean, which necessitates the application of mechanisms from the region’s countries to confront such practices.
This was echoed in the Friendship Forum, which was titled “Building Friendship, Peace, and Prosperity from the Mediterranean to the Gulf” that was held in Athens on 11 February.
It bore a basic message that there were unified efforts from Arab and European countries — namely Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Greece, and Cyprus — to combat terrorism and extremism, support security and stability efforts, confront the COVID-19 pandemic, and condemn interferences in the affairs of other countries.
Preserving Egypt’s stability is key to achieving the region’s stability. And, vice versa, the stability of the Middle East’s enforces Egypt’s stability.
In order to realise this stability, the Egyptian approach aims to preserve national institutions and protect them from falling into disintegration and collapse, strengthen regular armies, address the spread of armed militias and terrorist groups, reach peaceful settlements to armed conflicts, and putting a stop to foreign interferences by regional parties in the internal affairs of Arab countries.
*The writer is an expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.