Egypt’s presidential frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday praised Saudi Arabia and vowed to forge strong security ties with Arab Gulf states, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Adel Al-Toraifi.
Egypt’s former army chief told the London-based pan-Arab daily that Saudi Arabia would be the first on his list of countries to officially visit if elected president.
“The first country I will visit will be Saudi Arabia and we will go to express our gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for we will not forget his supportive stances and his statement backing the Egyptian people that led to a change in the [political] equation,” Sisi said.
Sisi also stressed that the security in the Gulf region and Egypt were interlinked. He said the security of the Gulf “is part of Egypt’s security.”
“We will not allow anyone to tamper [with the Gulf’s security],” he added. “If there is any threat to any Gulf state, Egypt will not stand and watch.”
“We are just a road’s distance and that means if any state is threatened and Egypt is asked to assist then we will do so immediately,” said Sisi, who is tipped to record landslide election win.
He reiterated Egypt’s commitment to combatting terrorism, saying: “Egyptians reject any threat to their security and right from the start of terrorist acts in Sinai there was a decisive decision not to allow the situation to return to what it was before.”
“We are not waiting for terrorism to knock on our door and there may be need for confrontation. What is important is that a comprehensive strategy be put in place to bolster the hearts and minds of the people,” he said.
“We will also work toward changing religious discourse that harms Islam through a joint Arab vision and strategy to resolve these issues,” he added.
The Egyptian people had lost faith in the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, before adding that: “It is now time for Al-Azhar to play its role once more to strengthen the youth in the real moderate Islam that prevents the spread of extremism.”
Turning to the turmoil in neighboring Libya, Sisi said over the past two years the North African country had become a nest of “extremists and militias” and vowed that Cairo “would not allow any terrorist operation to be launched from inside Libya against [Egypt].”
He said the way out of the unrest in Libya was through a “road map that expresses the will of the Libyans and not the militias.”
On the war raging in Syria, Sisi said that there “had been many developments on the ground” that necessitate a “review” that favors political to military solutions.
“Syria is one state. There should be no partition because dividing it would lead to problems and create a new and complicated reality,” he said.
“We also are faced with the equation of safeguarding Syria’s integrity and the need to eliminate the terrorism and extremist groups that have appeared on the Syrian arena,” he added.