US has regained its weight in the region, El-Sisi tells CNBC

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi speaks with CNBC's Hadley Gamble. (CNBC)
Updated 07 November 2017
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US has regained its weight in the region, El-Sisi tells CNBC

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has said that the region’s stability is important to everyone and something that all need to work on.
Speaking in an interview with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble, he praised US President Donald Trump and the approach he has taken in the Middle East. 
The Egyptian president also said he would not seek a third term in office, adding that he does not intend to change the constitution and its provision of a two-term presidential limit.
“It doesn’t suit me as a president to stay one more day against the will of the Egyptians,” he told CNBC over the weekend.
“We will not interfere with (the constitution)… I am with preserving two four-year terms,” El-Sisi added.
However, he did not confirm if he intended to run for a second term when his current term expires.
El-Sisi came to power in 2014, a year after he led the military in ousting elected but unpopular Islamist President Mohammad Mursi. Rights groups say El-Sisi has since led an unprecedented crackdown on political opponents, activists and critical media.
He is unlikely to face strong opposition and many in Egypt see him as vital to stability in a country where unrest since 2011 has battered the economy.
Security and stability
He said that the country’s security and stability were continuing to improve every day.   
“The stability in Egypt doesn’t emanate from the power of the police force or military forces imposing stability and security but from the will of the people. The Egyptians are the ones who are eager for stability and that Egypt is safe for their future and the future of their children and grandchildren.”
“As for the Iranian nuclear agreement, here in Egypt, all that is important for us with regard to the region is that the Arab national security is untouched. The national security in the Gulf is part of our security and our national security is part of the security of the Gulf... We want the region to live in peace, stability and security and that our national security is untouched and the Arab national security, the Gulf national security is untouched. That is what we are looking for.”
Presidents Trump and Putin
On Trump, he said: “I see that President Trump is managing foreign policy in our region. Can I say in short that the United States has regained its weight in the region and its role and is preserving the security of the region and its countries... We are completely supporting and cooperating with President Trump on this.”
Asked if he was closer to Trump or Putin, he responded first with a laugh and then said he admired Trump and that Egypt had “very good relations with President Putin.”
But El-Sisi said the US was fulfilling its commitment to Egypt, explaining that: “It has completely changed for the better since President Trump has come to power in the United States.”
He added that the region’s stability was “very important,” adding: “The region has more than enough fighting and turmoil and lack of stability. We don’t want to add more instability and fighting. This message is for everyone. We should be keen on our stability and security, and the others should be keen too on their stability and security. The region cannot support more turmoil.” 
“This is the message I want to convey and we are keen on the unity of Lebanon and its stability and peace of Lebanon… We preserve its unity, we preserve its stability, we preserve its independence.”
Asked if this was the time to be taking on Hezbollah he replied: “The subject is not about taking on or not taking on, the subject is about the status of the fragile stability in the region in light of the unrest facing the region, like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen and Somalia and other countries. We want to increase stability, not have more instability with other measures.”  
He said that despite his critics’ claims Egypt was “at war against terrorism in the full meaning of the word.”
“Stability has been achieved by comparison to what it was like before… Of course, the percentage of stability has increased in a very big and noticeable way. I am not the only one saying this, but everyone who is following up Egypt’s affairs can see this. But did we finish totally, of course not.”
Growing economy
On Egypt’s economy, El-Sisi explained: “The first path concerns investment opportunities in Egypt. The measures we have taken brought about real economic reform and we can say that we are proceeding seriously and the Egyptian people understand that... The second thing is to attract investment(s) to Egypt. We created a very strong legislative structure in order to attract investments.” 
“With all of that, there are no real problems facing investors to come and work here, taking into consideration that Egypt is the second biggest economic revenue for any investors that will come to Egypt. We are careful to encourage them by all means possible.”
Asked about the recent reports that Cairo was one of the least safe cities for women, El-Sisi initially questioned the reports.  But when pushed he conceded: “I admit that they face … but there is a difference between saying that Cairo is the biggest capital in the world facing sexual harassment. There is sexual harassment in Egypt. There is a big percentage, it is a high percentage, but not to say that it is the worst.”
He said all men should be held to account — by law — for their actions toward women.


US, UK must support Kurds in Syria: British politicians

Updated 10 min 39 sec ago
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US, UK must support Kurds in Syria: British politicians

  • Kurds of northern Syria face an “exponential threat” from Turkey while Western allies in the fight against Daesh remain silent — British MP
  • The UN estimates 137,000 people left Afrin leaving only about 150,000 in the district. Only the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish relief organizations can operate there

LONDON: The Kurds of northern Syria face an “exponential threat” from Turkey while Western allies in the fight against Daesh remain “silent,” Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of Parliament for the UK opposition Labor Party, told Arab News.

Speaking after visiting the Kurdish region of northern Syria this month, he said Kurdish communities in the area “feel abandoned” by the West in a “moment of real need.”

“While we were there, a place we’d been the day before was shelled by Turkey, so these things do go on and they do affect day-to-day lives. People seem genuinely very afraid,” he said.

Traveling via Baghdad and Irbil, before being escorted across the Syrian border by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), his delegation, which undertook the visit independently of the Labor Party, witnessed the devastation wreaked by Daesh and Turkish rockets in Kobani and other cities.

The route opened up a few months ago, Russell-Moyle said, creating a “window of opportunity” to “talk to the Kurds about what they were facing” and to “give hope to people that are struggling and are doing an amazing job.” 

Describing the democratic, secular, feminist state being established in the Kurdish-controlled area of northern Syria as “impressive,” he said this is the “best” and “only” example of the kind in Syria and that Britain should be helping to rebuild it in the aftermath of the conflict. 

During a visit to Qamishli, Lord Glasman, a Labour peer who was part of the delegation, said: “We’re here for a long-term relationship with you, where we can support you against all the people who are trying to destroy your liberty.”

In March, the Turkish military overran the north Syrian city of Afrin following a bloody campaign to oust the YPG from the area. Dozens of Kurdish fighters lost their lives, including 26-year-old British national Anna Campbell, who'd been volunteering with the YPJ, the female arm of the YPG.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president, has vowed to expand the offensive to other YPG-held areas, citing security concerns in response to US plans to help Kurdish militias create a 30,000-strong “border security force” to defend the Syrian-Turkish border against Daesh. 

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it defines as a terrorist organization, following a three-decade battle for Kurdish independence on Turkish soil.

The UK and US, wary of upsetting an important NATO ally, remain reluctant to get involved. A statement released by the US State Department in March said it was “committed to our NATO ally Turkey” with its “legitimate security concerns,” sentiments reiterated by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who insisted: “Turkey has the right to want to keep its borders secure.”

Kurdish forces are “infuriated” by the response, feeling that they have been let down by their allies, commentators said. Kurdish fighters make up the majority of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against Daesh.

Josh Walker, a British YPG fighter who has since returned to the UK, said: “Kurds have been seeing this as another chapter in their long history of betrayal by major powers; they are especially disappointed considering their major contribution to the near-defeat of ISIS, which was only prevented from being total defeat by Turkish intervention.”

Since the assault on Afrin, the YPG has redeployed hundreds of troops from the frontlines against Daesh to defend the city on the other side of Syria. Turkey’s “increasingly belligerent” position toward the Kurds has thrown up “contradictions” for UK and US foreign policy in Syria, said Robert Lowe, deputy director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economic and Political Sciences.

“Their overriding priority is to defeat ISIS (Daesh) and associated groups. That’s been hurt by the Turkish invasion and made their continuing operations to defeat ISIS, or clear out what’s left of them, more difficult because the Kurds have had to move resources.

“The US and the UK are only prepared to go so far in their criticism of Turkey,” he said. “They have urged restraint … but also haven’t been as critical as they might have been.”

Russell-Moyle said the UK needed to be “stepping up, not stepping away.” The recent decision taken by Theresa May, UK prime minister, to engage in US-orchestrated airstrikes targeting the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons facilities without parliamentary approval was a “very risky strategy,” he said. 

To bring an end to this conflict “we should be building up societies,” he said, and “supporting a civil population that will never allow it to happen again.”

In Rojava, and the cantons of Kobani, Cizre and Afrin, Kurdish communities have embarked on a political project to form the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, establishing a system of government based on democratic confederalism, ecology and gender equality. Councils set up by local people, have been established, based on equal representation of minority groups in the area.

Elif Gun, from the Kurdistan Students Union in the UK, described a “system of stateless democracy, working from bottom up, with power handed and divided.

“It is the only form of democracy and state that offers real change to the people and gives the power of decision making to the people.”