UAE, Egypt share un­break­able bonds

Other Voices

Arab Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kha­laf Al Habtoor UAE Busi­ness­man

Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi’s re­cent two-day visit to Abu Dhabi to hold talks with Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was a tes­ta­ment to the broth­erly re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries and peo­ples.

Our lead­ers are un­fail­ingly hos­pitable to guests but the mu­tual warmth and re­spect ex­uded by the Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent and the Crown Prince, who greeted each other like fast friends, was un­mis­tak­able. Pres­i­dent el-Sisi has char­ac­ter­ized the re­la­tion­ship as be­ing “spe­cial” and, in­deed, it is.

The Pres­i­dent was vis­i­bly touched by the emo­tion­ally-charged as­sur­ances of a UAE mil­i­tary of­fi­cial Mo­hammed bin Salem Kur­dous Al Ameri who at­tended the meet­ing.

“We are with you and we will sac­ri­fice for Egypt. We are im­ple­ment­ing the will of the late Emi­rati leader Sheikh Zayed bin Sul­tan and His High­ness Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed to de­fend Egypt and sac­ri­fice for it,” he said.

“We will sac­ri­fice for you too,” replied the Egyp­tian leader who has re­peat­edly as­serted that threats to the se­cu­rity of Arab Gulf States is for him “a red line”.

Be­sides the his­tor­i­cal close ties es­tab­lished dur­ing the rule of the late Sheikh Zayed, since the de­struc­tive Brother­hood regime was ousted from Cairo in 2013, Egypt and the Emi­rates have formed an iron­clad eco­nomic, diplo­matic and strate­gic part­ner­ship based on shared re­gional in­ter­ests and se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Prom­i­nent on the al­lies’ to-do list are com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism and the malev­o­lent in­flu­ence of ex­trem­ist ide­olo­gies. De­ter­ring Iran and its new-found friend Qatar from desta­bi­liz­ing the Arab World and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the po­lit­i­cal uni­fi­ca­tion of Libya, where divi­sion and law­less­ness are an in­vi­ta­tion to ter­ror­ist en­ti­ties flee­ing Syria and Iraq, are high on their agenda.

When the chips were down, the UAE, Saudi Ara­bia and Kuwait pro­vided sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial sup­port to keep the frag­ile Egyp­tian econ­omy afloat while the US, the UK and the EU turned their backs.

The Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment placed its trust in Emi­rati eco­nomic ad­vis­ers and the coun­try has ben­e­fited from hun­dreds of projects in the fields of trans­port, in­fra­struc­ture, ed­u­ca­tion and health com­pleted un­der a UAE de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance pro­gram pledged in 2014.

To­day, the UAE’s in­vest­ments in Egypt ex­ceed $6bn. A new in­vest­ment law al­low­ing for­eign in­vestors to repa­tri­ate prof­its, con­vert Egyp­tian pounds into for­eign cur­ren­cies and ben­e­fit from tax-free in­cen­tives will en­cour­age even greater di­rect in­vest­ment.

Thank­fully, Egypt’s econ­omy is no longer in in­ten­sive care; its once de­pleted for­eign re­serves have risen to a healthy $36bn and rev­enues from tourism have in­creased 170 per cent dur­ing the first seven months of 2017 in com­par­i­son

with the same pe­riod last year.

Fol­low­ing years of spo­radic elec­tric­ity black­outs, Egypt’s en­ergy re­quire­ments will be se­cured for many years ahead when its ‘su­per gi­ant’ offshore gas field be­gins pro­duc­tion at the end of this year.

Pres­i­dent el-Sisi’s eco­nomic re­forms — the pound’s flota­tion, de­creased sub­si­dies and the im­po­si­tion of VAT — are pay­ing off and have been praised by In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and World Bank of­fi­cials. I know that in­fla­tion is tak­ing a heavy toll on some sec­tors of so­ci­ety and would em­pha­size that there is no

gain with­out pain.

I can only urge the Egyp­tian peo­ple to ex­er­cise pa­tience. The Pres­i­dent is mak­ing pro­vi­sion for the needs of com­ing gen­er­a­tions amid an ex­pand­ing pop­u­la­tion set to reach 128 mil­lion by 2030.

The coun­try’s new ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal city has been crit­i­cized in some quar­ters as be­ing a grandiose waste of money. The crit­ics are wrong.

Cairo’s in­fra­struc­ture is strug­gling to cope with the crowds as it is and parts of the city are brought to a stand­still by end­less traf­fic jams. The pop­u­la­tion needs to be dis­persed to en­sure a bet­ter qual­ity of life for all.

Cer­tain Western pow­ers are not happy that the Pres­i­dent is also shoring up

his na­tion’s de­fences with weapons purchased from di­verse coun­tries. A ca­bal of US law­mak­ers who pushed for Amer­ica’s lat­est sus­pen­sion of mil­i­tary aid to Egypt al­lege that he is squan­der­ing his trea­sury’s fi­nances.

In re­cent times Egypt has purchased four Ger­man­made sub­marines, 50 Rus­sian MIG-29 fighter jets as well as 24 French-man­u­fac­tured Rafale com­bat air­craft and a naval frigate. Nat­u­rally, the Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment can­not rely on the United States for hard­ware when the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion froze de­liv­ery of paid-for F16s and Apache heli­copters.

Should he be blamed for strength­en­ing Egypt’s mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties when Daesh and af­fil­i­ated groups

are op­er­at­ing out of the Si­nai Penin­sula and in­fil­trat­ing Egypt across its north­west­ern bor­der? Should he be blamed when he has wit­nessed the tragic fate of Iraq, Syria and Libya, not to men­tion the fact that Cairo is a guar­an­tor of the ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of its Gulf al­lies?

In July, Pres­i­dent el-Sisi in­au­gu­rated the largest mil­i­tary base in the Mid­dle East and Africa, ac­com­pa­nied by HH Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Prince Sal­man bin Ha­mad Al Khal­ifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, the Emir of Mecca Prince Khalid Al Faisal and Kuwait’s Min­is­ter of De­fence Sheikh Mo­hammed Al Khalid Al Ha­mad Al Sabah.

I com­mend him for his tele­scopic view in light of the mul­ti­ple chal­lenges our part of the world con­fronts and it is my great­est hope that Egypt, the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates, Kuwait and Bahrain will forge an im­pen­e­tra­ble bloc on all fronts — a sin­gle pow­er­ful body.

Such an en­tity will have to be con­structed with the bricks of trust, ce­mented by com­plete trans­parency and loy­alty. The foun­da­tions ex­ist. All that is needed is a leap of faith.

I still re­mem­ber fondly Egypt’s glory days when Alexan­dria ri­valled cities on the French Riviera and Cairo was where lux­ury car­mak­ers and fash­ion houses chose to launch their new mod­els. That Egypt has dis­ap­peared into the mists of time, but if Pres­i­dent el-Sisi has his way, this coun­try that has stolen a piece of my heart will once again daz­zle the world with its bril­liance.


The Bri­tish Royal Air Force’s (RAF) aer­o­batic team, the ‘Red Ar­rows’, per­forms ae­rial ma­noeu­vres dur­ing an air­show in Kuwait City on Sept 28.

Al Habtoor

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