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Egypt and UAE push to be ‘pillars of stability’ in Middle East

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called at the UN regarding the need for the international community to confront terrorism that “seeks to dismantle national states,” according to a report at Al-Ain. The comments were addressed to the global community, urging security and peace.

On Monday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also spoke with United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed about the need for Cairo and Abu Dhabi to be pillars of regional stability. The comments about the need to stop terrorism are what one would expect from any statesman. Egypt’s position is unique, however, in that it is battling ISIS in Sinai and also attempting to prevent Turkish-backed militants and arms from flooding into Libya. Cairo has supported Khalifa Haftar and the Benghazi-based government of Libya against the Tripoli-based government.

In the past year, increased Turkish support for Tripoli has escalated the conflict and led to setbacks for Haftar. Egypt in turn set red lines at Sirte on the coast and a tenuous ceasefire has set in. 

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Egypt has sought to return strong national states to the region in the wake of the Arab spring. This has meant a return to more authoritarian policies but it has also come in reaction to the erosion of states that took place in Yemen, Syria and Libya, and to some extent in Iraq. Cairo, along with its allies in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, see Ankara and Tehran as sources of instability in the region. 

None of these precise accusations were made in Shoukry’s statement, but he spoke of the “values of equality and interdependence between people, and sovereignty of states over their lands.” He also spoke in favor of cooperation on Covid-19 and the need to respect the cultural differences of countries as well as the need for cooperation on cyber issues. At the same time, according to Al-Ahram, Egypt is signing onto the East Mediterranean Gas Forum on Tuesday. It will join Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. “The EMGF constitutes a very important initiative by Egypt, as it makes the most of the excellent relations and cooperation between Eastern Mediterranean countries, in order to find ways to develop in the best possible way the region’s natural wealth, and primarily natural gas,” the statement added, according to Al-Ahram.  

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In addition, Egyptian leader Abdel Fateh al-Sisi spoke to the UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed Abu Zayed on Monday. They discussed “regional developments.” The conversation is part of growing regional policies that link the UAE, Egypt and Israel. Al-Ahram wrote that “Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed in a telephone call with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan means to boost bilateral relations,” the Egyptian presidency said on Monday. The two leaders looked at how their countries could be “pivotal pillars of stability and security in the region,” Al-Arabiya reported. 

The context of the conversation and Egypt’s discussions about stopping terror and working with partners in the Mediterranean is Cairo’s desire to play a larger role in the region and especially regarding the concept of stability. Although this is unstated, Egypt’s main goal is to prevent what it sees as the destabilizing conflicts that have occurred over the past decade.

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