Sunday,21 October, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Sunday,21 October, 2018
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Addressing common concerns

Egypt shared its take on a host of pressing issues during the UN General Assembly, writes Doaa El-Bey


The 72nd UN General Assembly in New York provided an opportunity for Egypt to re-affirm its stands on the peace process, the Libyan and Syrian crises, illegal migration and the Renaissance Dam.

“Many files were successfully covered, including the US decision last month to freeze part of its aid to Egypt, not what we had expected from the Egyptian-US partnership,” says former assistant foreign minister Mohamed Hegazi.

Meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly US President Donald Trump told President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi that Washington would consider resuming military aid to Egypt which it suspended over human rights concerns.

Egypt was keen to use the international forum to remind the world that the Palestinian issue remains unresolved.

In his address to the General Assembly Al-Sisi called on the Palestinians and Israelis to take advantage of a “rare” opportunity to achieve the elusive goal of peace. He urged the Palestinians to overcome their differences and be ready to co-exist with each the other and with Israelis “in safety and security”.

Palestinian unity will remove one of the main obstacles to resuming peace talks.

Al-Sisi also sent a message to the Israelis, underlining that Egypt has more than 40 years of peaceful experience with Israel. He also called on Trump to take advantage of the opportunity to “write a new page of the history of mankind by establishing peace in this region of the world”.

“Al-Sisi’s call for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to support their governments reflects a need for popular support of decisions both governments will need to take to establish a Palestinian state,” says Hegazi.

Al-Sisi’s first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the assembly was seen by some commentators as a harbinger for the revival of the Middle East peace process.

That the meeting came after the recent Fatah-Hamas dialogue in Cairo lent it more importance: “Both meetings came in a framework of setting conditions to relaunch the peace process based on a two-state solution,” says Hegazi.

Last week Fatah and Hamas agreed to end the inter-Palestinian rift which began in 2007.

President Al-Sisi also pointed to the central importance of defeating terrorism. He told the assembly the time had come to confront all parties supporting terrorism and force them to shoulder their responsibilities.

The same issue was high on his agenda in meetings with leading public figures in the US, including administration and military officials and the leaders of research centres and think tanks.

Al-Sisi argued the international community needed to adopt a holistic approach to defeating extremism, countering not just the terrorists’ access to funds but also their ability to recruit and arm fighters.

During his time in New York Al-Sisi also met Donald Tusk, president of the European Council. They discussed illegal migration and signed a document of priorities for cooperation covering the next three years according to a statement issued by presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef.

Al-Sisi discussed energy issues and Egyptian-Greek-Cypriot cooperation during his meeting with Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri held a trilateral meeting with his Cypriot and Greek counterparts during which they agreed to bolster ties and facilitate dialogue between young people from the three countries.

During the meeting Shoukri extended an invitation to representatives of young people in Cyprus and Greece to attend the World Youth Forum that Egypt will host in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. The foreign ministers also discussed preparations for an upcoming tripartite summit, scheduled to take place in Nicosia on 21 November.

It will be the fifth summit between the three countries. The first was held in Cairo in November 2014, the second in Nicosia in April 2015, the third in Athens in December 2015 and the fourth in Cairo in October 2016.  

The three ministers issued a joint communiqué in which they resolved “to strengthen cooperation with a view to promoting good neighbourly relations, regional stability, peace and prosperity”.

Shoukri also met with the foreign ministers including of Iraq, Norway, Bangladesh and Ethiopia.

In his meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart Workneh Gebeyehu, Shoukri expressed Cairo’s concerns over what it says is the slow pace of progress of the technical studies on the Renaissance Dam. Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan needed to meet to share the results of the initial technical studies and to fix a firm date for their completion, he said.

Leaders from the three countries signed a declaration of principles in Ethiopia and a cooperation deal on the dam in Sudan in 2015.

It is very important that this issue is discussed between Egypt and Ethiopia with the utmost transparency, says Hegazi.

“Egypt asserts its historic rights to Nile water but is also supportive of Ethiopian interests and is keen to strengthen existing relations,” he said. Repeated bilateral — or trilateral meetings with Sudan — serve this purpose.

“All parties must remember it is cooperation, not the promulgation of differences, that best serves the interests of all Nile Basin states.”

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