Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi made a strong personal intervention at the just-concluded annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, linking Egypt’s fight against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to the recent mass demonstrations in France following the Paris terror attacks of early January, and also linking economic development to the fight against terrorism.
The President drew the parallel between the mass protests in Egypt that preceded the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi and the Paris protests, which drew world leaders as well as millions of French citizens onto the streets. “History vouches for the awareness of the Egyptian people, who removed an individual from power after he violated legitimacy, and they did not hesitate to strip legitimacy off those who tried to abuse it to distort the Egyptian identity,” he told the Davos audience. “The millions who gathered recently in France’s squares are an extension to the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets one year and a half ago in the battle against the same enemy: terrorism.”
El-Sisi continued: “The same terrorism has shed blood in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Canada and France.”
After making the link between the Egyptian people’s rejection of the rule of the MBs and the mass protests in France against the terrorist attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, carried out by jihadists, one of whom was trained in Al Qaeda camps in Yemen, the Egyptian President focused on the ambitious economic development projects that his government has launched since his election as president.
He provided the gathering of several thousand world economic and political leaders with a detailed account of the New Suez Canal project and the development of the Suez Canal Corridor. In addition, El-Sisi reviewed the ambitious “greening of the desert” program underway in the western desert of Egypt, running from the Mediterranean coast down to the oasis at Siwa. Through the exploitation of deep underground fossil water deposits and a system of canals from Lake Nasser, Egypt is in the process of reclaiming 4 million acres of agricultural land. Under the program, millions of Egyptians will be given land grants and other support to populate the western desert with new agro-industrial towns and cities, potentially vastly expanding Egypt’s food production for both domestic consumption and export.
The speech at Davos followed a significant visit to Cairo by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who met with the Egyptian leader and other top government officials from January 16-17. Abe brought a delegation of more than 100 Japanese ministers and business leaders to discuss concrete investments in the new Egyptian economy. Egypt’s ministers of trade, transportation, antiquities and international cooperation, along with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, took part in the talks.
During a meeting of the Japan-Egypt Business Committee, Abe declared “It goes without saying that the stability of the Middle East is the foundation for peace and prosperity for the world, and of course, for Japan. Should we leave terrorism or weapons of mass destruction to spread in this region, the loss imparted upon the international community would be immeasurable.” At the end of his remarks, Abe announced $360 million in loans for Egypt, including investments in new airport construction and expansion and modernization of the nation’s power grid. “These are intended to contribute to Egypt’s development, and by extension, to widening the foundation for stability across the entire region.”
Abe additionally announced $200 million in new aid to those countries engaged in the fight against the Islamic State, on top of $2.2 billion already pledged in 2013. He announced a further $2.5 billion in non-military assistance, largely devoted to infrastructure projects.
Egyptian sources confirm that Japan sees the stability and economic growth of Egypt as a key to the overall battle against Islamist terrorism. Japan will participate in an international investment conference in Egypt in March, sending a large corporate delegation to further pursue some of the investments discussed by the two heads of state.