Sisi steers Egypt through testing times at home and in the region

Sisi steers Egypt through testing times at home and in the region
Sisi steers Egypt through testing times at home and in the region

Thank you for your reading and interest in the news Sisi steers Egypt through testing times at home and in the region and now with details

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Egypt has been beset by a multitude of challenges this year that pose the most serious test for Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s government since the general-turned-president took office in 2014.

First came Ethiopia's refusal to reach an agreement on the operation of the massive hydroelectric dam it has built on the Nile, something that Cairo took as a confirmation of its worst fear: a reduced share of the river’s water that meets more than 90 per cent of its needs.

Then came reversals for Egypt's ally Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in neighbouring Libya after Turkey’s military intervention in favour of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli. A one-time general under dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Field Marshal Haftar is seen by Cairo as a bulwark against religious militancy in Libya.

Amid all this the country was grappling with its outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which peaked in June with a daily average of 1,500 new cases and a death toll that hovered around 100, according to health ministry figures. Authorities have acknowledged that the numbers could be 10 times higher.

Although the outbreak has eased considerably, there are fears that a second wave could hit the country of 100 million by winter, forcing authorities to impose a second lockdown that will deal a harsh blow to an economy still smarting from the first one.

As if that was not enough, the government is facing discontent after stepping up a campaign against illegal buildings, mostly homes, on farm or state-owned lands – an issue compared by Mr El Sisi to the threats posed by terrorism or Ethiopia's dam.

Violators were given until the end of September to apply for a settlement and two months after that to submit relevant documents. The deadline for applications was later pushed back to the end of October.

Millions of Egyptians now have to find the money needed to settle or have their homes razed to the ground. Under the settlements on offer, a square metre of land will be regularised for between 50 and 2,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh12-466).

Sensing the anger, the government made significant reductions in the settlement amounts and charges, but stood by its threat to remove all buildings whose owners did not settle.

For now though, Ethiopia's dam, the Libyan conflict and the pandemic remain the government's main priorities, which it has addressed with varying degrees of success.

'A must for survival'

President El Sisi spoke of Egypt's “extreme” concern over Ethiopia's dam, formally known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, in his pre-recorded address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Mr Sisi pointed out that nearly a decade of negotiations with Ethiopia by Egypt and Sudan, another downstream nation, has not yielded an agreement on the operation of the dam.

“The Nile river is not the monopoly of one party and its water to Egypt is a must for survival without taking anything away from our brothers,” he told the assembly. “Negotiations cannot continue indefinitely as an attempt to impose a status quo.”

Mr El Sisi has rejected suggestions from Egyptian pro-government media to resort to a military resolution of the stand-off over the dam, but never completely or categorically ruled it out. Last year, he said the dam was an existential issue for Egypt.

There have been no negotiations between the three countries in nearly a month, with Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum apparently waiting for the African Union, which sponsors the talks, to summon them for a new round. The AU has replaced the United States as a de facto mediator after a draft agreement hammered out in Washington earlier this year was rejected by Ethiopia.

Washington, a longtime Cairo patron and ally, this summer cut about $100 million of assistance to penalise Addis Ababa it for its perceived intransigence.

“The negotiations process seems to have stalled and Egypt is in a difficult position,” said Michael W Hanna, a Middle East expert from New York’s Century Foundation. “It has legitimate concerns and grievances and can point to Ethiopian refusal to negotiate in good faith, but it lacks any means to compel an agreement.”

'Red line' in Libya

Egypt’s rivalry with Turkey spilled over into Libya, with which the Arab nation shares a porous desert border, when Ankara intervened militarily in January to support the Tripoli-based government against the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Haftar.

In his address to the UN General Assembly, Mr El Sisi repeated his threat to send his army into Libya if the Turkish-backed forces breached what he called a “red line” stretching from the coastal city of Sirte down to the desert oasis town of Jufra, both controlled by the LNA. Without mentioning Turkey by name, the Egyptian leader called again for regional powers to take their hands off Libya.

“Egypt is determined to support the brothers in Libya,” Mr El Sisi said.

He accused Turkey, again without mentioning it by name, of entertaining “colonial delusions”, an allusion to criticism that Turkish interventions in Iraq, Syria and Libya under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an attempt to revive the heyday of the Ottoman Empire when it occupied most of the Arab world.

So far, Turkish-backed forces appear to have heeded Egypt’s threat not to breach the Sirte-Jufra line.

“It’s a significant achievement for Egypt,” said political analyst and academic Gihad Auda. “No one came near that red line since President El Sisi threatened to intervene if they did.”

But tension between Cairo and Ankara remains high over the latter’s attempts to force its way into plans by Egypt, Cyprus, Greece and Israel to jointly turn the east Mediterranean into a global energy hub following the discovery of massive fields of natural gas there.

In another victory for Egypt, Cairo and Athens last month reached an agreement defining their exclusive economic zones in the Mediterranean, further isolating Turkey. On Tuesday, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus agreed to turn an energy grouping they founded last year into a regional organisation designed to develop and follow energy policies for the participants, who include Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Coronavirus comeback

With local experts divided over whether Egypt will see a second wave of infections, the government is moving to further reopen the country and revive an economy battered by the three-month lockdown that ended in late June.

Last week, authorities allowed the resumption of funeral services in mosques as well as weddings held at outdoor venues. They also allowed conferences to be held with a limit of 150 participants in appropriate venues.

At the same time, the government has warned that measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus would be reintroduced if infections surge and that people still need to observe precautions such as wearing masks in public and maintaining social distancing.

Despite efforts to reopen the country, the government has opened itself to criticism with a series of unpopular measures that people feel disregard the economic hardships caused by the three-month lockdown that ended in June.

In quick succession over the past few months, the government raised electricity charges, reduced the size of the subsidised bread that millions depend on and raised fares on the Cairo metro. Earlier, the government decided to deduct 1 per cent of the salaries of state employees to contribute to the cost of dealing with the pandemic.

The measures are the latest in a package of ambitious economic reforms agreed with the International Monetary Fund in 2016. The reforms have won praise from international financial institutions but hit the country’s poor and middle class hard. In its defence, the government says the relatively good shape of the economy following the reforms is what spared the country an economic meltdown as a result of the lockdown.

Updated: September 24, 2020 08:56 PM

These were the details of the news Sisi steers Egypt through testing times at home and in the region for this day. We hope that we have succeeded by giving you the full details and information. To follow all our news, you can subscribe to the alerts system or to one of our different systems to provide you with all that is new.

It is also worth noting that the original news has been published and is available at The National and the editorial team at AlKhaleej Today has confirmed it and it has been modified, and it may have been completely transferred or quoted from it and you can read and follow this news from its main source.

PREV Palestinians rejoice as UN Court declares Israeli occupation illegal, sparking outrage in Israel
NEXT Blinken points to wider pledges to support Ukraine in case US backs away under Trump