Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a military ceremony at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on October 24, 2017 - AFP/Charles Platiau Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a military ceremony at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris on October 24, 2017 - AFP/Charles Platiau

Sisi warns against destabilizing Egypt

Thu, Feb. 1, 2018
CAIRO – 1 February 2018: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi delivered clear messages on Wednesday, January 31 to “anyone trying to manipulate the state’s stability,” saying that he is not a man of politics and diplomacy when it comes to the country. He affirmed that he will do everything he can to preserve and maintain the country’s stability and security, even “if it costs [him his] own life.”

“You don’t know me well enough. I will never let anyone manipulate Egypt's security as long as I am alive. I can ask Egyptians' mandate again to combat terrorism, but I will not trouble them to do so now,” Sisi said in his speech at the inauguration ceremony of the Zohr natural gas field on Wednesday in Port Said.

These statements follow years of national and international efforts by Egypt to face terrorism. The state has witnessed several terrorist attacks that killed civilians, army and police officers. President Sisi has pledged several times during his speeches to preserve the country’s stability, whatever it takes.

Last December, two militants tried to storm a church in Helwan in southern Cairo. They opened fire, leaving ten civilians, including six Copts, dead and injuring at least five others. The same month, a deadly attack hit the main mosque in North Sinai’s Al-Rawdah Village, taking the lives of roughly 22 percent of its male residents. The village’s population is just under 2,111 people, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics’ (CAPMAS) 2016 report.

At least 311 people were killed and 121 injured when unidentified militants attacked a crowded mosque during Friday prayers in the Sinai Peninsula, setting off explosives and spraying worshippers with gunfire.

According to eyewitnesses, the militants stormed the Al-Rawdah Mosque west of Al-Arish City, detonated an explosive device around the mosque, set fire to cars of the villagers and then cut off the main road leading to the village.

In October 2017, another attack killed 16 security officers in Egypt’s Western Desert and, before that, deadly attacks hit Egypt’s churches last April. In Tanta’s St. George Church, at least 27 people were killed and 78 others were wounded due to an explosive device that was planted under a seat in the main prayer hall.

A suicide bomber attacked St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria where Pope Tawadros II held the Palm Sunday mass. Two police officers guarding the church stopped a man wearing an explosive belt. The police officers, a man and a woman, were killed along with civilians and other police staff.

All of these incidents, among several others, have affected the country for about eight years. Also, Egypt’s economic status has not been at its best.

Italian relations

During the speech, Sisi also highlighted the Italian-Egyptian relations, which were tense for a period of time following the murder of researcher and PhD student Giulio Regeni.

“It is clear now why some powers tried to spoil our relations using Italian student Giulio Regeni’s case. I promise you all again to bring his killers to trial,” Sisi said during his speech in Port Said.

He offered condolences to Regeni’s family again, affirming that Egypt and Italy share strong and stable relations. This was not the first time where Sisi stated this message.

On January 25, 2016, the 28-year-old Italian scholar Regeni disappeared in Cairo, only for his dead body to be found on February 3 alongside the Cairo-Alexandria highway, bearing signs of extreme torture, according to Reuters. This murder led to strained ties between Italy and Egypt.

A joint investigation between the Egyptian and Italian governments has been opened since then.

“Regeni’s case is still ongoing, and, as President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said before, we are willing to continue the investigations until the end, as both Italian and Egyptian attorney generals and officials are cooperating transparently to reach the truth. However, we need to understand that not everyone wants Egyptian-Italian relations to continue and develop,” Egyptian Ambassador to Italy Hesham Badr said in an interview on October 6, 2017 to Sada al-Bald.

Sisi also mentioned that Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi’s efforts were a good example of the “strong and stable” relations between the two countries.

He thanked Descalzi for his efforts and described him as a “dear friend” of the country who is keen to meet the deadlines and fulfill all demands and requirements of the project at the highest quality.

In his speech, Descalzi said that today is only the beginning. “I didn’t expect the project to be finished that fast. I was amazed by our Egyptian co-partner companies’ work and I can say that we were a very good team,” Descalzi added.

Egypt’s maritime borders

During the inauguration ceremony, President Sisi talked about Egypt’s maritime borders and the importance of signing border agreements with other countries, including Cyprus, to search for oil and gas wells in the Red and Mediterranean seas.

“Before speaking about the country’s agreements and future, we have to be informed and educated,” Sisi said. He added that before talking about maritime borders, it is necessary to have a proper understanding of the country’s needs, otherwise the country may risk losing a lot of money.

Signing maritime border agreements between countries will allow the authorities to search for oil and gas wells freely within these countries’ borders. This was the main reason behind signing the maritime border agreements with Cyprus in 2004 and with Saudi Arabia in April 2016.

A long debate has persisted over the sovereignty of the Tiran and Sanafir islands, which President Sisi transferred to Saudi Arabia in an agreement in April 2016. Many people criticized the decision and organized protests. However, on June 14, at a parliamentary general assembly, nearly 400 MPs voted in favor of the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia. The decision came after five committee sessions beginning on June 11 and leading up to the general vote.

On June 20, Sisi said in a speech that the maritime border agreement discussion is over and constitutes nothing to be hidden anymore, following parliament’s approval of the transfer of the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty. “We should not doubt each other’s goodwill. We are in a rescue mission. Threats are still surrounding us,” Sisi stressed.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Sisi arrived at Port Said city, north of the Suez Canal, to witness the beginning of production of the Zohr gas field.

Covering an area of 100 square meters with a depth of 1,450 meters, the field is one of the largest offshore gas fields, discovered in 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea’s Shorouq concession by Italian energy company Eni.

Investing around $10 billion in the project, Eni estimates a total output of approximately 30 trillion cubic feet of gas. The new field will help secure the energy needs of a country that consumes around six billion cubic feet of gas a day, with 65 percent of the total amount going to the electricity sector.

Zohr is expected to provide the Egyptian economy with a significant boost estimated at $2.5 billion annually. It started at a capacity of 350 million cubic feet per day, paving the state’s way to realize its ultimate goal of securing its energy needs and becoming self- sufficient.
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