El-Sissi in Sudan to shore up alliance against terrorism

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Egypt President El-Sissi speaking at the 23rd AU summit in Malabo.

Egypt President El-Sissi speaking at the 23rd AU summit in Malabo.

KHARTOUM: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi landed in neighbour Sudan on Friday for what an analyst said would be an attempt to shore up a regional alliance against “terrorism”.

An AFP photographer at Khartoum airport confirmed the Egyptian leader’s plane had touched down.
The official SUNA news agency said El-Sissi was “on a short visit to hold talks with President (Omar) Bashir.”

El-Sissi arrived a day after he told the African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea that the continent must reinforce cooperation to face a “plague” of cross-border terrorist groups.

He took a similar message to Algeria on Wednesday during his first foreign trip since his election in May.

“Egypt, the Gulf countries and now Algeria — Egypt is trying to build a regional alliance to fight terrorism,” University of Khartoum political scientist Safwat Fanous told AFP.

Sudan has a debt of more than $40 billion, much of it in arrears, and has been under American sanctions since 1997.

The country has been plagued by inflation, a declining currency and lack of reserves since South Sudan separated three years ago with most of Sudan’s oil production.

El-Sissi, however, is unlikely to have any financial aid to offer Sudan.

“But he may mediate between Sudan on the one side, and the West and the Gulf countries on the other side,” to ease economic pressures on Khartoum, he said.

“El-Sissi must have something to offer Bashir if he expects Bashir to cooperate,” the professor added.

On another issue, Fanous said Sisi likely wants Sudan’s help to mediate a dispute with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance dam under construction in that country.

Egypt has expressed particular fears that the dam project could diminish the supply of Nile River water on which it is almost entirely dependent.

On Thursday, El-Sissi told the opening ceremony in the Equatorial Guinea capital Malabo: “The continent faces an increasing challenge in trans-border threats, with terrorism at the forefront.” He said: “We need to strengthen our cooperation and align our national policies to effectively counter this.”

El-Sissi pledged Egypt would play an active role in peacekeeping across the continent. The former army chief was marking Egypt’s return to the continental bloc after elections meant to turn the page on his ousting of an elected president.

The African Union is seeking to put in place an African Standby Force (ASF) to deal with regional crises. A senior AU official said on Wednesday progress had been made toward having the force, which is made up of five brigades from the different regions of the continent, operational by the end of 2015.

The force has been under discussion for more than a decade but its establishment has been hampered by concerns over its command structure and funding.

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