Qualitative shift in Egypt’s foreign relations: Sisi visits Russia, Sudan, Germany

06-11-2018 09:57 PM

Injy Samy

It was not the first visit, but it was special where attitude and results are concerned. President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s three-day-visit to Russia, from 15 – 17 October represented the ‘harvest’ of previous visits along the past years. Simply because this visit achieved a number of positive developments and leaps in the way of Egyptian-Russian relations have gone since 2014.

Russia: Strategic partnership

It was the 9th meeting between Sisi and Putin in five years.

Sisi was given a very special welcome on his arrival in Moscow and later in Sochi where he met Putin. He was the first president of a foreign country to be invited to speak before the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council. Its Chairman, Valentina Matviyenko, described Sisi as a distinct political figure, wise and far-sighted, and who adopts a positive attitude towards Russia.

President Vladimir Putin issued a decree approving a comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation agreement with Egypt. The visit also witnessed discussions about the resumption of Russian tourist charter flights to Egypt.

Russia already has considerable investments planned in Egypt. The Russian industrial zone to be built in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, is an investment worth USD6.9 billion. “We plan to attract investments in this zone to the tune of seven billion dollars, creating over 35,000 new jobs” Putin said. Goods manufactured in this zone will go not only to the Egyptian market of Egypt, but also to markets of the Middle East and Africa.

And Russia’s federal agency for atomic power, Rosatom, is building the al-Dabaa nuclear power plant in Egypt worth USD60 billion.

The two presidents agreed to declare the year 2020 a “cultural year” in the two countries.

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir (C-R) receives his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (C-L) upon the latter’s arrival at Khartoum International Airport outside the Sudanese capital on October 25, 2018. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

Sudan: Four freedoms

The president’s day-long visit to Sudan on 25 October was short but very significant, witnessing summit talks with Sudanese President Omar Bashir. The two leaders attended the signing ceremony of a package of memos of understanding and executive programmes in the medical, agricultural, education, media, youth and sports domains, as well as in investment, economy, and trade.

Egypt’s Minister of Transport, Hisham Arafat, was part of the delegation accompanying President Sisi.

The visit also witnessed discussions on the dream project of a railway line to link Khartoum and Cairo, which would realise and fulfill the agreement between Egypt and Sudan on the ‘Four Freedoms’: movement, residence, work and property.

Germany: cooperating on migration

President Sisi arrived in Germany on 28 October for a four-day visit in which he participated in the mini-summit of African leaders as part of the G20 Africa Partnership initiative.

Sisi met Chancellor Angela Merkel to probe ways of boosting cooperation over counter-terrorism and halting illegal immigration, as well as other vital issues in the political, military, and economic fields.

“The visit comes within the framework of efforts by Egypt to promote cooperation with other African countries and G20 states in light of Egypt’s presidency of the African Union [AU] in 2019,” said Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi.

President Sisi was the only African president to attend the initiative. The African members of the initiative are: Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Tunisia, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo.

The visit also witnessed talks by Sisi with the German parliament Speaker Wolfgang Schäuble at the Bundestag in Berlin. It paved the way for Egypt to take on a more active role in Europe’s efforts to stem the flow of illegal migrants to its lands — a move the EU has recently been pushing for. Formal talks towards an official pact that would see the Egyptian navy patrol the Mediterranean have recently started, with the EU promising grants, a flow of investments, and other financial incentives in exchange.

A round table was held for the President of the Sisi with a number of German companies, whether they have investments in Egypt or those wishing to access the Egyptian market, with the aim of stronger investment partnerships.

Friendship protectors

Tarek Fahmy, professor of political sciences, commented on the President’s Russian visit, noting that the comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation agreement between Egypt and Russia was evidence to the compatibility and integration between the two countries.“ It represents a message to Washington, Dr Fahmi said, that Egypt has the ability for maneuvering and tactic. “The joint Russian-Egyptian military exercises ‘Friendship Protectors’ held on 24 – 26 October are a translation of the strategic and military partnership between the two countries.”

Closest to Egypt

As to President Sisi’s visit to Sudan, Muhammad Harby, member of the Egyptian-Sudanese businesses, said it would help national economy and security, especially that Sisi concerns himself with penetrating the African market.

“Sudan is one of the closest countries to Egypt,” Mr Harby noted, “there are many opportunities for cooperation between the two countries through mutual investment projects.”

Establishing an industrial zone in Sudan would enhance the competitiveness of the national industry which could benefit of the cheaper raw materials in Sudan.

Mediator between Africa and Europe

“The president’s visit to Germany can be considered the most important of all his recent visits,” Bassant Fahmy, member of economic committee at the House of Representatives, said. “Many European countries have realised that to git rid of poverty, terrorism, and illegal migration, they should invest in Africa,” she added. “And now, Egypt has become ready to play the role of mediator between Africa and Europe, which will make it a central starting point, especially that it will have the chairmanship of the African Union by the next year. This would accordingly attract more investments.

“Cooperation between the two countries on transport and railway projects would be one of the most prominent elements in this framework,” Mrs Fahmy

Germany will moreover establish much-needed technical academies in Egypt, also a new university.

“This will surely benefit Egypt,” she said.

Watani International

6 November 2018

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