President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had not referred to the current Syrian government when he spoke of Egypt’s stance on Syria, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.
Rather, Al-Sisi was saying that national armies would be better off taking responsibility for fighting terrorism in their countries, instead of relying on foreign intervention.
In an interview with US TV channel PBS, Shoukry added Egypt believes that an inclusive political solution which gathers all the political factions is the best exit to the Syrian crisis, adding that Al-Sisi has not announced his commitment to any political faction.
Despite Shoukry’s remarks, Al-Sisi had in fact said in an interview with a Portuguese TV channel that Egypt supports the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). This army is affiliated to Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.
Shoukry added in the interview that Egypt is looking forward to consolidating and strengthening bilateral relations with the United States, as Egypt is in a transitional period and on the path to reform.
He explained that Egypt is looking forward to a clear vision from US president-elect Donald Trump’s administration regarding the current conditions and challenges in the Middle East. He said that Egypt and the new administration have a mutual vision on combating terrorism and how reinstate stability in the region again.
In response to whether Egypt will prioritise combating terrorism and give less attention to human rights, Shoukry said the issue that concerns Egypt is regaining stability. However, human rights issues are an integral part of the reform policies and Egypt’s Constitution, he stated. The minister further added that during his meeting with vice president-elect Mike Pence and during Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump, the conditions and challenges of the region were discussed, saying that the topic of human rights “wasn’t raised specifically”.
Regarding the case of Aya Hegazy, an Egyptian-American citizen who was detained more than two years ago on charges of sex trafficking and child abuse through an organisation that she founded as a rehabilitation programme for street children, Shoukry said that the impartiality of Egypt’s judicial system should be recognised. He would not describe the accusations against Hegazy as “bogus” due to their seriousness, as they are related to minors and child abuse.
Shoukry said that he does not know whether Al-Sisi would sign the new Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Law that was recently approved by the House of Representatives. However, he added that this law was the outcome of what the elected members of parliament saw in the interest of the public.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said no one in Egypt is detained on accusations related to freedom, but rather on charges of criminal activities, including protesting without obtaining the necessary permissions.
Egypt was not on good terms with the US following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces in 2013. President Barack Obama’s administration did not approve of the ouster and called it a “military coup”. The US aid to Egypt was cut as a result; however, it was resumed in May 2015 over concerns of Islamic State. Nonetheless, bilateral relations between Egypt and the US are expected to improve under Trump’s administration as there is a similarity in the vision regarding turmoil in the Middle East.
Shoukry headed to the US last week and met with several officials, including US secretary of state John Kerry and vice president-elect Mike Pence. It was the first visit from an Egyptian official to the US following Trump’s victory in the presidential elections earlier in November.