Sisi: Egypt-Gulf ties strong despite bid to divide allies

Sisi calls for unified Arab force to counter challenges facing the region

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President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Sunday attempts at harming ties between Egypt and Gulf countries had failed and that there was a pressing need for a united Arab force to counter the growing challenges facing the region such as Islamist extremists.

Sisi, who spoke in a televised address, said ties with Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE were still strong despite attempts by unidentified parties to divide the allies, a reference to a leaked audio recording that purported to show him and senior aides being derisive of rich Gulf donors.”

"This support was the main reason why Egypt was able to persevere against all of the challenges and difficulties," Sisi said.

Sisi's speech was broadcast on prime time television and was interspersed with clips of him greeting leaders of wealthy Gulf Arab states, Western powers and Egyptian army officers.

During the speech he also said there was need for a "unified" Arab force to counter what he described as the “great” challenges facing the region.

"The need for a unified Arab force has become more pressing with each day because of the huge challenges facing this region. We can defeat it [terrorism] when we are together," Sisi said.

Sisi’s speech came after less than a week since Egypt launched air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group in neighboring Libya.

Egypt has been evacuating its citizens from Libya. About 800,000 to 900, 000 Egyptians have left Libya so far. The air strikes came after ISIS claimed the beheading of 21 Coptic Egyptians.

The Egyptian president said selection for the targets of the air strikes that numbered 13 was done with great precision and were solely for defensive purposes and insisted the Egyptian military was a "non-interventionist" armed force.

“The Egyptian army has long defended our land from inside our land,” he said.

Sisi said he had received support from Arab countries including Jordan, which weeks earlier had launched air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria following the execution of one of its air force pilots.

Sisi said Gulf states had also showed support, describing their response as “great.”

"I want to say that our brothers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and in the Gulf all had the same stance [to that of Jordan]," he said.

Western powers including the United States and United Kingdom have ruled out military intervention in Libya and urged for a political solution. However, Egypt has been calling for an international coalition to defeat ISIS in its Arab neighbor.

[With Reuters]

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