President Abd El fattah al-Sisi (Archive)
CAIRO – 10 May 2017: Egypt assures being the fortress of stability and security in the region against any regional or international threats. The president’s visit to the gulf countries, starting with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, and ending with Bahrain, has three main pillars: security, economy and politics.
Starting with the political - or better said the geopolitical - since president Sisi takes the regional disputes and conflicts on his shoulders and assumes the Arab soil’s integrity, as well as asserts on the security of the Gulf countries. Egypt finds today’s disputes and wars in the region affecting the whole region and resolving it peacefully and diplomatically is vital for the rest of the Arab nation. Six years have passed with no hope in future for some countries of the region; it is time to start talks and show solidarity.
Joint Arab action is the theme of the warm visits to the Gulf countries, along with the warm reception of Egypt’s leader. With regard to Libya, Syria, Yemen setting the highest priority on the Arab agenda, Egypt again takes the lead to carry on effective talks on ending the Middle East’s dilemma.
The visits’ importance lies mostly in the security aspect of it, along with the political and the economical.
Egypt exerts huge effort on securing its borders on both the east and west fronts. This is why Libya is topping the agenda of the visits, and the meetings with the ministers of defense of the Gulf states visited by Sisi.
Geopolitically speaking, Egypt is regaining its role in the region by enhancing its unity and show of solidarity with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain. This is proven by his Highness Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah’s statement on Egypt’s role in keeping or maintaining security and stability of the whole Arab nation and especially the Gulf area, and reinforced by President Sisi’s quote, “The Gulf’s security is a red line for Egypt.” Egypt’s stance on the Gulf’s security is proven throughout history when Egypt robustly stood by Kuwait during the 1991 Iraqi invasion by sending troops. Syria, Libya, and Yemen need more of a joint Arab action and vision towards their miseries.
Enjoying this geographic location, Egypt naturally gains the role of being a moderator between differences in visions about the future of those nations in the Arab world. What matters most for Egypt, is that the land’s integrity and sovereignty of nations is in dispute, either it is Syria, Libya or Yemen. Sisi’s UAE visit came 24 hours after the UAE brokered a meeting between Fayez al- Sarraj, head of Libya’s United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), and military strongman Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who refuses to recognize the GNA. Arab consensus is being worked on by Egypt to extinguish fires lit in the Middle East. The two-state solution for the Palestinian case also needs Arab support and show of solidarity. Consensus is sought after by Egypt whether it is inside Palestine or in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Terrorism tops the agenda of the visits as well; a joint Arab action is in the process of eradicating terrorism and fighting it from its roots, and Egypt knows for sure that eradicating terrorism will not work if there is no unity in action between the Arab countries. Egypt has been a pioneer in fighting terrorism long before 2011, and even more nowadays. The fight starts with eradicating poverty, economic reforms, modernizing religious discourse, and a unified strategy, and this is what Egypt is trying to do now. With no unified Arab action regarding the matter, terrorists will continue to threaten the Arab nation and scatter from one place to another.
The Gulf states have always shown support economically and politically to Egypt. With the daring economic reforms taking place in modern Egypt today, Gulf states are backing Egypt. On February 23, 2017, Sisi issued the presidential decree no. 155 of 2016 ratifying the Income Tax Treaty concluded between Egypt and Kuwait on December 16, 2014.
The convention between Egypt and Kuwait serves the purpose of avoidance of double taxation in connection with the applied taxes on income in both countries and to mitigate the risk of tax evasions by both countries’ taxpayers. This convention shall boost investment between the two counterparts. Subject to the convention are all taxes applied to incomes including the taxes on profits resulting from transferrable or non-transferrable belongings, real estate and the taxes applied to the salaries and wages paid by Egyptian-Kuwaiti projects. The convention states that the profits achieved by a project of any of the two countries are subject to taxation in the country of origin only.
The total Kuwaiti investments in Egypt amounted to $3 billion and $373 million, and the number of joint investment projects reached 1,106 till the beginning of 2017. These included tourism, industry, agriculture, telecommunications, and information technology.
Paving the way to new investments, Kuwait has granted Egypt an aid package of KWD 300,000 (around $985,500) for the removal of landmines from Egypt's north coast area which has been present there since WWII, to support Egypt in its planned second phase of landmine removal in the North Coast. More than 20 percent of the world’s landmines are in Egypt; the North Coast of Egypt and Libya is littered with landmines laid during World War II by Germany, Britain and their respective allies. Each year, landmines and other unexploded ordnance cause death and injury to civilians in the area.
Economic relations between Egypt and the Arab countries is a top priority for Egypt and the Gulf countries as well, since the world trade volume is shrinking, Egypt is seeking more exposure to the Arab markets. Kuwait and Bahrain represent one of the most important markets for Egyptian exports, the volume of trade exchange between Egypt and Kuwait reached $477.5 million, of which $419.5 million is the value of Egyptian exports to Kuwait. Meanwhile, $58 million is the value of imports from the Kuwaiti market. The Egyptian exports to Kuwait were in electrical appliances and cables, various foodstuffs, furniture, tobacco, marble and coal. Egyptian imports from Kuwait included tourist cars, petrochemicals and sodium hydroxide.
On all aspects and levels, Arabs need more joint action and a stronger show of solidarity in order to face mutual challenges and defy obstacles in the future.