Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 24. File photo/
“We are looking forward to developing our strategic relations with our friends in China,” said Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Chinese state media on Thursday at the presidential palace in Cairo.
Ahead of his official four-day visit to Beijing, which is scheduled to kick off on Dec. 22, the Egyptian president described Chinese-Egyptian ties as “very special, strong and stable” and commended China’s balanced policies toward other countries.
“China has balanced policies and does not interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs, which is one of the reasons for China’s success,” Sisi said.
Egypt has recently established a cabinet task force specifically for China led by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, including a number of key ministers as members, to study fields of cooperation with China. “I hope cooperation with China will be at the highest level,” Sisi said. “Cooperation between Egypt and China is not new and the purpose of the visit is to confirm and develop this cooperation and discuss Chinese investment opportunities in Egypt,” the president said.
“Egypt’s geographic location is strategic and distinguished and China has relations with the whole world. So, both Egypt and China have the right to cooperate, using the Chinese industrial and investment capabilities and the Egyptian distinguished locations,” Sisi added.
“We should work on benefiting from the depth and size of relations between Egypt and China,” Sisi told the Chinese reporters, adding that the Egypt-China cooperation is not targeted against any other countries.
Sisi said Egypt supports and encourages China’s initiative to build the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, adding that it represents a great chance to enhance cooperation between the two countries and that Egypt will have an important role in implementing this initiative.
“Egypt is the portal for the Arab world, for Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and for Africa, and we want the Chinese side to approach Egypt strongly,” the president continued. “The Egyptian people are ready to cooperate with the Chinese people for development, progress and peace.”
Over the past four years, Egypt has gone through two uprisings that led to the ouster of two heads of state. The political turmoil then dramatically affected the country’s economy and Sisi’s administration is struggling to put it back on track.
“It has cost us dearly,” Sisi said referring to the 2011 and 2013 uprising that led to deteriorating tourism, prevailing chaos and growing terrorist activities.
“But now the course of security and stability is noticeably increasing, so we are on the right track,” Sisi said.
In August, President Sisi gave the go-ahead for digging a 72-km expansion of the original Suez Canal as a national project to boost the country’s ailing economy, ordering “the New Suez Canal” to be open for ship navigation in early August 2015.
The Egyptian president said that the Chinese companies have great opportunities to invest in the Suez Canal Corridor projects.
Navigation for trade ships coming from China and Southeast Asia will be a lot easier, Sisi continued. “We are developing projects around the Suez Canal Corridor to provide ships with services like fuel and food etc.”
“Egypt is currently establishing a huge road network of 3,400 km within one year, besides the new Suez Canal project,” said Sisi, adding that Egypt is taking the necessary measures to facilitate a friendly investment environment to reassure foreign investors.
“We are trying to restore trust in Egyptian, Arab and foreign investors and send them a reassuring message that investment in Egypt is safe and stable and that the state is committed to its obligations with investors,” the president said.
The trade volume between Egypt and China exceeded US$10 billion for the first time in 2013, more than 80% of which is represented in Chinese exports to the North African country.
Sisi, who will soon make his first visit to China since his election in June, said that China has achieved tremendous progress over the past 40 years, adding that Egypt needs to benefit from the Chinese development experience.
“The Chinese experience is very fruitful and wonderful. It is not only us but I believe the whole world looks at China with respect and pride,” the president added. “You proved to the world that a Chinese person can accomplish what’s impossible.”
“We invite our brothers in China to come and join us quickly to put our hands together and work together for the best of our two peoples,” Sisi said.