In his first visit to Cyprus, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi signed a cooperation agreement with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, after discussing bilateral relations.
Anastasiades said the political momentum that would result from the visit would strengthen coordination between the two countries in international forums. This would work for the benefit of stability and security in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, according to a Wednesday Foreign Ministry statement.
Anastasiades also said that many businessmen from his country are paying special attention to investment in Egypt. Al-Sisi expressed Egypt’s aspiration to strengthening cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy, especially natural gas.
However, former assistant foreign minister Ibrahim Yousry criticised the move.
“I do not understand this visit, nor the secret behind getting close with Cyprus,” Yousry said.
It is a meeting with thieves “who stole our gas”, he asserted, pointing out that Cyprus is bankrupt and one of the poorest countries in Europe.
Yousry had previously criticised a 2003 agreement with Cyprus, which allows it and Israel access to Egypt’s Mediterranean gas fields.
“Military men do not understand politics,” Yousry declared. He agreed that the visit might be a part of Egyptian stubbornness against Turkey, which is in conflict with both Cyprus and Egypt.
In the ensuing crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters following President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s rise to power, Turkey has emerged as a sympathiser to the now-banned group. The two countries have been exchanging accusations since former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in 2013.
“This is the policy of military mentality, not Sameh Shoukry, a qualified foreign minister,” Yousry added. “Despite Turkey’s stance, Egypt’s interest lies with Turkey.”
During the talks, Al-Sisi thanked the Cypriot president on his country’s support within the European Union (EU) for Egypt’s stances.
Al-Sisi is scheduled to go to Madrid in response to the invitation extended to him by King Felipe VI of Spain.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper El-Mundo, published one day before his visit to Spain, Al-Sisi discussed the internal situation in Egypt in the past few years. He vowed that parliamentary elections, originally set for last month, will be held before the end of 2015.
The elections were set to start on 21 March and run until 7 May, but were postponed after the constitutional court ruled that parts of the electoral law were unconstitutional.
Al-Sisi told El-Mundo that he has prevented Egypt from descending into civil war, saying that he faced a difficult equation.
“My role is to guarantee life and security of 90 million Egyptians who faced the risk of chaos. If I let anything [harmful] be done, is it Europe that would pay the salaries of Egyptians?” he said.
“If the state collapses, that would cause terrible harm to Europe and the region would face a disaster…I do what I can to protect Egyptians. I try not to arrive at situations that I could regret,” he added.
He stressed that the Egyptian people wanted to change to preserve the identity of the Egyptian state and its resources. He pointed out that the Egyptian people understood their path to democracy through their free choices.
Al-Sisi stressed the importance of the international community’s concerted efforts to defeat terrorism, not to be limited to the military and security aspects, but to include the development dimensions as well as the renewal of religious discourse
Egypt is looking to strengthen its relations with Spain and the EU, as well as attract more Spanish investments, aside from cooperation in the fields of education and culture, Al-Sisi said.
The meeting with Spain’s king is to be followed by another meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. This will be followed by an expanded meeting attended by the delegations of the two countries, where they will sign a number of bilateral agreements.
Talks will also take place with heads of 15 of the largest Spanish companies in the presence of Spain’s Economy Minister.
Accompanying Al-Sisi on his tour are the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Investment, Transport, and Electricity, as well as Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish.