Egypt moves to center stage – opinion

Unexpected news appeared just as the 14-day COP26 international conference on climate change was drawing to a close earlier this month. The host of COP27 in 2022 will be Egypt. In addition, in the meantime, Egypt partnered with the Maldives to organize workshops to advance international adherence to the commitments made at COP26.
COP27 will be held in the town of Sharm e-Sheikh on the Red Sea, at the southeastern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, bidding to host it, said Egypt would work to make it “a radical turning point in international climate efforts in coordination with all parties, for the benefit of Africa and the world. whole”.

The fact that Egypt is about to take on a major role in a key area of ​​international politics is a testament to Sisi’s determination. Egypt’s path to international recognition as a leading player on the world stage has not been without its difficulties. To be successful, Sisi needed to mend relations with the Biden administration.

Then-US President Barack Obama had disapproved of Sisi’s coup against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi and condemned Sisi’s crackdown on opponents of his new regime. Joe Biden, Obama’s vice president throughout his two terms, made clear early in his own presidency that he was going to upset Sisi on his human rights record.

“We will carry our values ​​with us into all relationships we have around the world,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in March. “That includes Egypt.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price delivers a press conference on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, USA, on August 16, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque / POOL ).

Sisi knew that a vital step in his bid for greater global recognition was persuading Washington to resume the regular schedule of strategic discussions between the United States and Egypt. This series of dialogues was established under the Clinton administration in 1998 and has taken place periodically since then, in addition to a gap between 2009 and 2015 beginning with the Obama administration.

Sisi made it. On November 8, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken participated in the opening session of the renewed dialogue between the United States and Egypt. Later, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that the talks had boosted relations between the two countries and had been a great success.

In heating up US relations with Egypt, Biden is not without critics. Human Rights Watch has long condemned Sisi’s ruthless crackdown on opposition to his government, a view widely shared within the US Democratic Party. Aware of this, in early September Sisi issued what he called his “National Human Rights Strategy 2021-2026”.

Nominally, an effort to establish a new strategy for human rights in Egypt, Sisi called it a milestone in the country’s history. However, when reporting on the announcement, journalists and civil rights advocates were highly skeptical. They expect action in support of the beautiful words, and they may still get it.

On October 25, taking a step in the right direction, Sisi lifted the state of emergency that he had imposed on the nation more than four years ago. Once again, HRW, while welcoming the move, stated that it was far from sufficient to address what it calls “the country’s protracted human rights crisis.”

Months earlier, the foundations had been laid for Sisi’s new engagement with Washington. In September he traveled to Sharm e-Sheikh to meet with the newly elected Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett. Subsequently, Bennett said the two leaders had “laid the groundwork for deep ties to move forward.” He told reporters that the talks covered diplomacy, security and the economy, including aspirations to expand trade and tourism.

Other sources revealed that the discussion had also addressed regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program and Sisi’s aspirations to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, based on the presumption of a two-state solution.

To be sure, Sisi organized this open show of friendship towards Israel with an eye on Washington, and subsequent events proved the move to be cunning. The warm meeting with Israel’s prime minister was one way in which Sisi reminded the United States that Egypt is an irreplaceable player in maintaining stability in the Middle East, a point included in the joint statement that followed the strategic dialogue between United States and Egypt.

Sisi has proven his worth to American interests in a number of ways. The 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel in May was resolved as a result of Egypt’s acting as an honest broker, an outcome not originally envisioned by Washington.

Subsequently, Sisi placed himself in a key role in the Gaza situation by facilitating discussions between the main players, Hamas, Israel and Qatar, the outcome of which is still in the balance. Following the meeting with Sisi, Bennett’s office mentioned Egypt’s role in maintaining stability and calm in Gaza.

The Israeli and Egyptian armies have been cooperating for years in North Sinai against jihadist forces trying to undermine the anti-Muslim Brotherhood Sisi administration. On November 8, the IDF announced that the Egyptian army would intensify its activities in the Rafah area in northeastern Egypt.

The decision was made at a meeting of the joint military committee of the Israeli and Egyptian armies. The army statement said the measure “was approved by the Israeli political echelon.”

The 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel stipulated that agreed security arrangements would be established and that, at the request of either party, the security arrangements could be modified.

More broadly, America’s disconnection from the Middle East under Biden has prompted Sisi to seek meaningful relationships with China and Russia. Sisi has awarded lucrative contracts to both world powers. China, through the China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), is building the new administrative capital of Egypt, 45 km away. east of Cairo, on a vast patch of desert equal to the size of Singapore.

In August, Egyptian delegations visited nuclear power plants in Russia to finalize an agreement related to the construction by Russian nuclear power producer Rosatom of Egypt’s first nuclear reactor in El-Dabaa.

In both cases, and in other deals with these leading powers, Sisi has been especially careful not to jeopardize Egypt’s deep and seemingly growing relationship with the United States. His aim is to improve Egypt’s position and his own in the world. Given the visit of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife on November 17, it appears he is succeeding.

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