Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1216, (2 - 8 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly


Al-Ahram Weekly

New York messages

This week, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri presented the permanent members of the UN Security Council a booklet in support of the request of Egypt for a non-permanent seat on the council ahead of the next round of change of the 10 revolving seats.

The move by the top diplomat came only days after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi made an appeal to states and governments to support the Egyptian bid for a seat in the next council. This he did during his speech, as head of the Egyptian delegation, to the UN General Assembly last week.

Egypt has held membership in the UN Security Council before and could well get there again, provided that it picks up the pace on the foreign policy front, after a few years of all but exclusive attention to domestic developments.

Getting Egypt in the UN Security Council would also require the implementation of what Al-Sisi promised during his speech before the UN in New York: a balanced pursuit of development and democracy without forgoing one in favour of the other.

Indeed, it was in this speech before the UN General Assembly that Al-Sisi gave unprecedented emphasis to the call for democracy. The “D-word” has not so far been an integral part of the discourse of the president, who was elected by a majority of voters overwhelmingly concerned with declining services and insecurity.

As head of the military, as presidential runner, and as president-elect, Al-Sisi spoke more of security, energy and poverty than of democracy. He often stated that democracy for Egyptians is not necessarily a preeminent objective.

In New York, however, Al-Sisi chose to express strong commitment to pursue democracy — something that is certainly becoming of a man whose ascent to power came in the wake of much political commotion prompted by unmasked public disdain for autocracy, even if for a while sidelined in favour of more pressing daily life demands.

The statement of Al-Sisi before the UN General Assembly amounts — if only from the analytical point of view — to the guidelines of a vision of a president whose election was inspired by fear for the future rather than confidence in a platform.

For many in the West that have been apprehensive about the rise of the former chief of army to power, even through free elections, this was perhaps the most important of the messages that Al-Sisi made in New York.

It is a message that opened the door for wider international recognition of the past year’s political developments in Egypt, along with international realisation of the vital role that Egypt could play in the “fight against radical militant Islamic groups”.

In his statement before the UN General Assembly, as during his bilateral talks on the fringes of UN, Al-Sisi was unequivocal in sending a message of Egypt’s commitment to combat radical militant groups like the Islamic State and others.

Another message that Al-Sisi sent through his New York visit to sceptics at home and abroad is that he is not going to accept to be “a lesser president”. Al-Sisi’s decision to take part in the UN General Assembly came despite concerns of being faced in New York with demonstrations contesting his legitimacy. Al-Sisi chose to go, surrounded by those who believe in him, and met with many in New York demonstrating in his support.

The group of supporters in New York, however, was not without words of warning for Egypt’s new president, spotting among them some faces that appear ready to offer praise to any and all ruling officials. Thus keen Al-Sisi supporters called publicly on the president to “beware” of those who are “willing to ally with power at all times”.

Having expressed “pride and joy” at the performance and speech of the president before the UN General Assembly, which they said sent a clear message to the world that Egypt is returning to its pivotal regional and international status, supporters of Al-Sisi equally expressed worry about “political parasites” that they called on the president to promptly dismiss.

The key message, however, that Al-Sisi sent by his New York trip is perhaps directed to his harshest political adversaries in the Islamist camp who were up until recently determined that Al-Sisi would not be given international recognition, and that he would be treated by the world as the head of a “military coup that removed a legitimate elected president”.
To those, Al-Sisi sent a message that he is the head of state and that he will act as such and treated as such even if they continue to tell their supporters that the “coup is falling apart”.

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