Security Tops Agenda in Algeria During Egypt Leader’s First Foreign Trip

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for coordinated efforts to fight “terrorism” during a visit to Algiers on Wednesday, his first trip abroad since his election in May.

“The purpose of my visit to Algeria is to reach a shared vision of common interests and challenges facing the two countries and the region,” Algerian official media quoted the ex-army chief as saying.

“The two countries need to work together on a number of issues,” he added, citing the problem of “terrorism… (which requires) a coordination of positions.”

Sisi was met by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was later received by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements.

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Algeria and Egypt both share long borders with Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 that scattered weapons across the Sahara region and has provided refuge for jihadists.

Despite a decline in deadly unrest under Bouteflika, jihadists still operate in Algeria, and since the 2011 uprisings toppled dictators across the region, Algeria has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks from neighbouring Mali and Libya.

After Algeria, Al-Sisi will head to Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo for the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit. He is expected to address the summit, as is tradition for a newly elected president of a member state.

UPDATE : ALGIERS/CAIRO, June 26

(Reuters) – Algeria agreed to ship five cargoes of liquefied natural gas to Egypt before the end of the year, a source at Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach said, helping its north African neighbour with its worst energy crunch in years.

The offer of five 145,000 cubic metre cargoes was made after a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Algiers, his first trip abroad since taking office. Sisi was seeking Algeria’s support to counter Islamist militancy and cooperation on the chaos in neighbouring Libya.

“We did not reach a deal on pricing yet, but it is almost a deal,” the source said of the agreement, which is part of talks over supplying Algerian gas for Egyptian power stations.

Egypt’s oil ministry spokesman Hamdy Abdel-Aziz said he did not have any information on the status of the negotiations between the two countries, which began early this year.

The two north African countries both have long borders with Libya where, three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, a weak central government is struggling to contain Islamist militants and brigades of former rebels and militias.

Egypt’s steadily declining gas production and foreign firms’ wariness about any increasing investment have combined with price subsidies and rising consumption to create the country’s worst energy crisis in decades.

The country of 85 million relies heavily on gas to generate power for households and industry. Previously unheard of winter power cuts this year emphasised the extent of the crisis.

Egypt has been scrambling to secure natural gas supplies, which its mainly oil-producing Gulf Arab allies cannot provide. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have given $6 billion in petroleum products since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last summer.

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