President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed Egypt’s role in fighting global terrorism and bringing peace to the Middle East in his address to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Although this was also Sisi’s message to the UN in both 2014 and 2015, he stressed: “Terrorism is more widespread today, and it threatens all of humanity … It is the affliction of this age,” adding that Egypt would “continue, as always, to be a cornerstone of stability for the Middle East.”
Sisi went on to speak of conflict in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Palestine/Israel.
“Bloodshed in Syria is no longer acceptable,” Sisi said, thanking Russia and the United States for supporting ceasefires during the five-year conflict.
He claimed Egypt is currently home to 500,000 Syrians who have fled their homeland, despite UN figures from July 2016 citing 120,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt. The privately owned Al-Watan news portal reported that the country is currently hosting around 131,000 Syrian refugees.
Sisi spoke of his hopes in resolving the conflict in Palestine-Israel. “Egypt will use its influence to realize peace and bring an end to Israeli occupation,” Sisi claimed, arguing that the realization of a Palestinian state would safeguard Israeli security and sovereignty.
As for Libya, Sisi asserted: “Egypt is striving to bring together different parties in this conflict, so as to establish a national unity government.” He didn’t mention Egyptian state support for Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army based in the eastern Libyan city Tobruk, despite the UN’s criticism of the general taking control of several oil ports across Libya recently.
Sisi expressed Egypt’s support for negotiations in Yemen between rival parties, “in order to realize a lasting peace” and “guarantee the security of maritime navigation through the Bab al-Mandab Straits and the Red Sea,” which he added affects Egypt’s security directly. He didn’t mention Egypt’s support for the Saudi-led offensive on Shia Houthi rebels and their allies.
The President claimed Egypt would be at the heart of counterterrorism efforts in Africa, and is involved in several initiatives to resolve armed conflicts in Somalia, Burundi, and South Sudan.
He urged the UN to engage in international development projects and the countering of ideologies that promote terrorism in Africa, the Middle East and worldwide.
Speaking of domestic affairs briefly, Sisi mentioned infrastructural projects and major development initiatives, saying the citizenship rights of all Egyptians would be upheld.
The speech is in line with priorities raised by US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their meetings with Sisi on the sidelines of the conference, in which they stressed the need for cooperation in tackling global terrorism.
Although Clinton reportedly directly addressed the imprisonment of US-Egyptian citizen Aya Hegazy, who has been in pre-trial detention for two years in Egypt, there has been little mention of widespread human rights abuses in Egypt more broadly at the conference.