Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1244, (30 April - 6 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Al-Sisi’s European tour

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi started a European tour with visits to Cyprus and Spain this week, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

Egypt is facing various challenges including terrorism, the energy crisis and numerous economic problems. Its relationship with Europe is solid, but there is room for improvement in the economic, political and security fields, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said at the beginning of a two-day tour to Cyprus and Spain this week.

The visits are meant to enhance cooperation between Egypt and the two countries in various fields.

In the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Al-Sisi held talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades and attended a tripartite summit meeting with Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who was visiting Cyprus at the same time.

Presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said the Egyptian delegation had attended the summit along with its Cypriot and Greek counterparts. Joint talks were held on issues of mutual interest, focusing on regional energy cooperation.

“Egypt needs to import more natural gas, and Cyprus needs to export it. Therefore, mutual cooperation in this field in particular is expected to expand,” Youssef said.

“The energy agreement between Cyprus and Egypt did not include Greece. It is a bilateral issue, but it is not going to be finalised within days or weeks. Further talks in the near future will take place,” he added.

Youssef said that in February the Egyptian and Cypriot ministers of energy had signed a memorandum of understanding in Cairo on cooperation in the field of energy. The new talks focus on the best way to export natural gas from Cyprus to Egypt.

Al-Sisi’s visit to Cyprus is a follow-up to the summit that took place in Cairo last November, during which the Cypriot delegation indicated that it would assist Egypt in putting forward its views in the EU.

After the president’s visit to Cyprus he left for Spain, arriving this morning at the invitation of King Felipe VI. Before the visit, Al-Sisi gave an interview to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo in which he addressed relations between Egypt, Spain and the European Union and a number of regional and international issues.

During the interview, the president spoke about Egypt’s efforts in combating terrorism in Yemen, Syria and Libya. He also stressed the importance of ending the critical situation in the Palestinian Territories.

“It is essential to the Arab world that the religious dialogue be continued and that terrorism be combatted, since this hinders any country’s efforts to develop,” Al-Sisi said in his interview.

Al-Sisi will meet with King Felipe VI and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy Brey to discuss relations between the two countries. “The president is keen on enhancing bilateral relations with European countries north of the Mediterranean Sea,” Youssef said.

A number of bilateral agreements are to be signed with Spain during the trip, Youssef said. Spain’s investments in Egypt’s gas, cement and railway industries are estimated at some $757 million.

Many analysts have praised Al-Sisi’s adoption of a new direction in the country’s foreign policy, saying that Egypt is aiming at achieving a “balanced relationship” with the EU countries.

Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said Egypt was interested in creating stronger bonds with European countries. “Egypt’s new foreign policy entails an assessment of the rapidly changing global and regional environment,” Nafaa said.

Al-Sisi was exerting efforts to return Egypt to its position as the source of political thinking in the Middle East and rebuilding its moral authority, which had been largely lost during the regime of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, he added.

Egypt was giving priority to enhancing its relations with the European countries especially in the economic and security fields.

“This will help create an environment of mutual and collective interest,” Nafaa said, adding that people-to-people interaction should also be promoted between nations across the Mediterranean.

Gamal Zahran, a professor of political science at Port Said University, said Egypt’s goal was to guide the country to a more powerful position. “This can be done through collaboration with the EU countries, especially after the president’s policy of seeking the country’s independence from other foreign pressures, like those of the US, for example,” Zahran said.

He said the president intended to develop a joint policy strategy with Europe in order to bring about development and inclusive economic growth as well as stability.

The new Egypt was eager to regain its place among regional as well as European countries, Zahran said, adding that “there is an intensified focus on economic projects as a way of rescuing the country from crisis.”

Aleya Al-Mahdi, also a professor of political science at Cairo University, commented that the visits were a way of countering efforts to cause instability in Egypt. “The countries involved in this week’s meetings have agreed on the need to combat terrorism through intensified security collaboration. This is in addition to the economic cooperation from which Egypt will soon gain the fruits,” Al-Mahdi said.

She added that the president wanted to emphasise the importance of boosting the already good relations between Egypt and the EU countries and to seek further cooperation.

“Al-Sisi wants to formulate a coherent foreign and security policy for Egypt and the European Union vis-à-vis the southern Mediterranean, fostering the Mediterranean dimension in European neighborhood policy,” Al-Mahdi explained.

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