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Sisi calls for UN strategy against extremism

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke of regional politics and terrorism before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday, in almost the exact same format as his speech this time last year.

In his address to the 70th annual session of the UNGA in New York, his second since being elected president, Sisi hailed the coming of “a brighter tomorrow,” despite the “dark shadows of unrest” that he said hang over the Middle East today. 

Although he began by highlighting the achievement of the new Suez Canal bypass, he swiftly moved on to Egypt’s intervention in regional affairs and the fight against terrorism both at home and overseas.

One of his suggestions for combatting extremism in Egypt was the integration of young people into state-sponsored programs to “keep them from drifting towards radical interpretations of Islam.”

He emphasized the limited reach of extremists and terrorists, who he said claim to hold the keys to Islam, but have not convinced over 1.5 billion Muslims, who refute their agendas.

There was no mention in the president’s speech of the cost of Egypt’s war on terrorism. He didn’t talk about civilian casualties, or the accidental killing of 12 Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides in the Western Desert recently.

Sisi did mention the beheading of 21 Egyptians on Libyan shores, emphasizing that Egypt is ready to support Libya through the joint efforts of UN negotiators, otherwise, “terrorism may spread further into the Middle East, Africa and the world at large.”

Addressing Syria, he argued that “greedy militants seek the spoils of war,” as infighting continues amongst armed extremist groups, and called for a resolution to ongoing violence.

Sisi defended Egypt’s military intervention in Yemen in support of the Saudi-led coalition, in order to uphold “the legitimate government” of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and to ensure the unity of Yemen, its territorial integrity and security. He did not mention that Hadi’s two-year term as interim president expired several months ago.

He urged reconciliation in Iraq and self-determination for Palestinians, and their territorial right to maintain East Jerusalem as their capital, warning that if this is not resolved, there will be huge ramifications for the region.

He spoke of increasing provision for refugees by the Egyptian government, amid an increasing flow of migration that he attributed to conflict and terrorism.

On the sidelines of the General Assembly, attended by more than 190 other heads of state, Sisi met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about German support for development projects in Egypt, as well as leaders from Senegal, Mali and India to discuss bilateral cooperation in terms of investment.