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Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of Egypt, on the historic ties between Egypt and the UAE, and how determination to strengthen their respective economies is contributing to mutual and regional interests.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
BIOGRAPHY
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977 and served in the infantry before becoming the commander of Egypt’s northern military region. In 2011, el-Sisi was appointed to the post of director of military intelligence and was also the youngest member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a body of senior military officers who governed Egypt after Mubarak’s departure. El-Sisi was elevated to the positions of defense minister and commander of the armed forces in August 2012 and, after the revolution of summer 2013, el-Sisi won the presidency with 93% of the vote and was sworn into office as President of Egypt on June 8, 2014.

In recent years, the UAE has delivered nearly half of the foreign aid budget to developing projects in Egypt. How crucial has UAE aid been in stabilizing Egypt and promoting development?

Egypt and the UAE have always shared special and close relations at both official and popular levels. Today, ties between the two Arab nations are developing on all spheres at an unprecedented rate and are considered as a model upon which inter-Arab relations should be styled. Strong bonds of friendship with UAE's leaders HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan have reflected on the growing political and economic ties between both countries, and as a result the UAE ranks high among Arab and foreign countries investing in Egypt. Cultural ties between both nations are also reaching new horizons, in light of the common social and cultural heritage both peoples share. During recent years, the UAE has become one of Egypt's most important strategic allies as well as a key development partner. This was demonstrated by the stance taken by the UAE following developments in Egypt in the past few years and the support it has pledged to Egypt's stability.

The New Suez Canal opened last year. Has Egypt seen much interest from the UAE to develop special economic zones near the canal, like Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, which have developed efficient business-friendly centers of industry?

Boosting the contribution of the industrial sector to Egypt's economic growth has been one of the key components of our development strategy over past years. The Suez Canal corridor is one of the most prominent projects in Egypt. In November 2015, we launched the first phase of the Suez Canal Area Development Project. The project envisages the promotion of special economic zones and industrial areas. Work is now underway for the infrastructure in the area to turn it into an international investment destination, a global logistics hub and an industrial center for the new Egypt. As an integral part of this vision, the government is currently reviewing the special economic zones law to improve the tax and investment incentives offered to investors in these zones. The UAE was at the forefront of countries showing interest in this ambitious project, given its commitment to supporting Egypt's comprehensive economic and social development process as well as its successful experience in managing special economic zones. The Emirati interest in the Suez Canal project started early in phase one, where Abu Dhabi's National Marine Dredging Company was instrumental in delivering the New Suez Canal on time, leading a consortium of four of the world's largest dredging contractors. Momentum has now switched to Phase II of the project, the new special economic zones, which offers a huge opportunity for the UAE, particularly the private sector, to set up industrial parks and logistics hub. I met with several groups of Emirati businessmen and investors in recent years and they showed great interest and commitment to increasing their investments in Egypt, and we are currently cooperating with them in order to translate this interest into tangible actions and projects that would be of mutual benefit for both sides.

How do you envision future relations between Egypt and the UAE?

We seek to develop and further advance the already outstanding relations both countries share at all levels to serve our common interests. At the bilateral level, Egypt and the UAE will continue to strengthen the political, economic, cultural, and social ties that have been established since the UAE's independence in 1971. There is a large Egyptian expatriate community in the UAE, which has positively contributed to its development and modernization process during the past decades, and many Emiratis have a strong affinity to Egypt, where they have received their education at Egyptian universities and enjoyed some of Egypt's most attractive tourist destinations. The political leadership in both countries is interested in seeing these relations further prosper and flourish to serve their mutual and regional interests.