Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Pursuit of peace

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi tells the United Nations General Assembly the pursuit of international peace and development requires a “serious plan” to end terror, reports Dina Ezzat

photo: Reuters
photo: Reuters

In his address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi underlined Egypt’s continued commitment to pursue national and regional stability despite challenges that ranged from acute poverty to the spread of terror.

Eliminating poverty and terror is the flip side of the promotion of development, stability and peace, duties the world must address promptly if the “long delayed rights of peace and development for all the peoples of the world” are to be achieved, said Al-Sisi.

He told delegates at the UN General Assembly that Egypt is doing everything possible to pursue peace and development despite the challenges it faces in the Arab world where terror has found a fertile breeding ground, on the shores of the Mediterranean where poverty and illegal migration represent a growing threat, and in Africa where the spread of extremism is compounding the acute problems caused by underdevelopment.

“Egypt stands at the heart of one of the most challenging areas of the world but it is pursuing its march towards development with radical economic reforms and with a principled and forward looking foreign policy,” he said.

Al-Sisi outlined a five-point plan to improve the regional order. The number one priority, he said, was “commitment to the nation state above all ethnic calls”, an agenda that Egypt has been proposing for two of the most troubled spots in the Arab world — Syria and Libya.

The president firmly, if indirectly, criticised the role Qatar is playing in Syria and Libya, characterising it as the pursuit of regional influence at the expense of the stability and territorial integrity of both countries. Egypt, he said, “would not allow” divisive calls to succeed and will continue to work with the UN to promote stability and national unity in Syria Libya, Iraq and Yemen.

The second point of the plan is a negotiated end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that allows for a Palestinian state to be established “on the borders of 1967”. Ending the struggle, he said, will “strip terror groups of one of their most obvious pretexts”.

“The time has come to once and for all break whatever is left of the wall of hatred and animosity. The Arab hand is still extended in peace,” Al-Sisi said without making any direct reference to the Arab Peace Initiative.

Al-Sisi twice appealed to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to grab the chance for peace that he said now exists. He also appealed to US President Donald Trump to commit to securing a historic peace deal in the Middle East. Trump made no reference to peace in the Middle East in his own speech before the General Assembly, his first since taking office in January this year.

Elucidating his third point Al-Sisi took aim at the failure of international powers to take a firm stand against countries promoting terror. In an all but a direct reference to Qatar and the recent meetings Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has held in European capitals, Al-Sisi said attempts to eliminate terrorism cannot be taken seriously if they include the very countries that promote terror.

Though Al-Sisi did not namecheck Qatar in his speech, earlier in the day Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said he had told officials he met on the sidelines of the General Assembly that it was up to Qatar to end its conflict with Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain by halting its interventions in the domestic affairs of the four countries.

In his own speech before the UN the emir of Qatar criticised Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for trying to impose their own agenda on his country. Qatar, he said, was open to a negotiated end to the crisis “provided it was unconditional”. His speech came hours after the foreign ministers of the four countries issued a statement in New York saying Qatar must meet their demands to end the conflict. A similar statement was issued by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir following his meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The fourth and fifth points of Al-Sisi’s plan to secure regional stability involved greater international backing of development in Third World countries and firmer commitment to international law and national sovereignty.

In a rare reference at an international forum to Cairo and Addis Ababa’s ongoing dispute over the Renaissance Dam Ethiopia is constructing on the Nile, Al-Sisi said the issue could be resolved by observing international law. He also argued prompt and serious action to address the problems faced by Myanmar’s Muslim minority would signal the international community’s commitment to helping resolve crises in the Third World.

Unlike many of the leaders who preceded him on the UN podium Al-Sisi made no direct references to Iran in his speech. Nor did he mention North Korea, though Cairo’s relations with Pyongyang were recently the subject of strong US criticism.

Earlier in the day US President Trump had told the assembly the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US or its allies. Trump also denounced the nuclear deal with Iran, a hallmark of his predecessor Barack Obama’s foreign policy, as “embarrassing”, leading to speculation Washington is planning to withdraw from the agreement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Al-Sisi in his own speech as “a brave leader” before promising that Israel would not shy away from facing down the terror and instability Iran was wreaking across the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron, addressing the General Assembly for the first time, underlined Europe’s continued commitment to the nuclear deal with Iran and its determination to ensure Tehran honours its obligations under the agreement.

Iran was expected to be high on the agenda of Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump scheduled for Wednesday, as Al-Ahram Weekly went to print. The two were also expected to discuss bilateral relations following substantial cuts in US economic and military aid to Egypt which analysts say are linked to disagreements over Cairo’s relations with North Korea and Egypt’s record on human rights and civil society.

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