Egypt's Sisi: Coalition must battle ISIL and others

Egypt would welcome any move that would further isolate the Muslim Brotherhood, which has faced one of the fiercest crackdowns in its history.

Egypt's Sisi: Coalition must battle ISIL and others

World Bulletin/News Desk

The main support bloc of ousted president Mohamed Morsi has rejected Egypt's participation in any military alliance to serve what it described as the "Zionist American alliance".

"We reject U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to the military coup authority and [attempts] to get Egypt involved in a military alliance for serving the Zionist American alliance," the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy said in a statement on Sunday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that any global coalition should battle not just ISIL but other groups as well, the presidency said on Saturday.

Egyptian security officials have said ISIL has established contacts with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has killed hundreds of security forces since the army toppled elected President Mohamed Mursi last year.

Egypt would certainly welcome strong action against Ansar as well as Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, which it has declared a terrorist group.

Sisi said any international coalition to combat terrorism "should be comprehensive and not exclusively target a specific organization or eradicate a certain terrorist hotspot", the presidency said in a statement.

"Rather, the coalition should extend to encompass combating terrorism wherever it exists in the Middle East and African regions."

Sisi also expressed concerns about foreign fighters in ISIL and the danger they posed to their home countries because of Western passports that can get get them through airports undetected.

The statement added that Sisi "warned of the repercussions from the involvement of foreign militants in ongoing regional conflicts".

Egypt's foreign minister, backing Washington's call for global action to counter the threat, said earlier in a news conference with Kerry that ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria were forging ties with other groups in the region.

Militant groups that share ISIL's ideology and "take Islam as a cover" must be dealt with, said Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri.

Egypt's strong public support for the U.S. campaign against ISIL contrasts with a mixed response elsewhere in the region and demonstrates how far Cairo has come in restoring its place as a premier U.S. partner in the Arab world since its authoritarian crackdown and military takeover last year.

"We will take all measures that are intended to eliminate this phenomenon altogether, whether in Libya or any other part of the Arab world or in the African continent in particular," Shukri said.

Egypt's call for international action gives a needed boost to Kerry's bid to build global support for President Barack Obama's plan to strike both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier and defeat ISIL Sunni fighters.

Kerry won backing on Thursday for a "coordinated military campaign" against ISIL from 10 Arab countries - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

But the specific role of many countries in the coalition remains unclear. Few have publicly committed to military action or other steps, particularly in Syria where a three-year civil war still rages. Europe's response has been mixed.

PIVOTAL ROLE SEEN FOR CAIRO

Egypt's role is potentially crucial. Egyptian security officials fear they face a threat from Egyptian militants based across the border in Libya and from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Both are allegedly linked to or inspired by ISIL.

At the news conference, Kerry suggested Egypt, regarded as an intellectual hub in the Arab world, could exert enormous influence in countering ISIL's ideology from its sheer size as the Arab world's most populous state to its powerful clerics.

The United States wants Egypt to use its leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, a 1,000-year-old seat of religious learning, to send a message of moderation across the Middle East to counter ISIL's extremist ideology.

"As an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world, Egypt has a critical role to play in publicly renouncing the ideology ISIL disseminates," said Kerry.

Kerry's message in Cairo came two days after he urged Gulf Arab foreign ministers to suppress all financing of ISIL, including private money in countries such as Qatar and Kuwait where U.S. officials say enforcement has been weak.

The United States called on each country to work with clerics to convey a message that ISIL's ideas are contrary to Islam, and to use their influence on regional television stations to broadcast anti-extremist programming.

Obama's plan to fight ISIL simultaneously in Iraq and Syria thrusts the United States directly into the midst of two different wars, in which nearly every country in the region has a stake against the backdrop of Islam's 1,300-year-old rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

ISIL is made up of Sunni militants, who are fighting a Shi'ite-led government in Iraq and a government in Syria led by members of a Shi'ite offshoot sect.

In Syria, Turkey has backed mainly Sunni rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad. Although it is alarmed by ISIL's rise, Turkey is wary about any military action that might weaken Assad's foes, and is concerned about strengthening Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told Reuters some Arab states at talks in Jeddah on Thursday had proposed expanding the campaign to fight other groups besides ISIL, a move Turkey would also probably oppose.

Egypt would welcome any move that would further isolate the Muslim Brotherhood, which has faced one of the fiercest crackdowns in its history.

Egyptian authorities have killed hundreds of members and jailing thousands of others.

Qatar has asked seven senior figures from Egypt's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to leave the country, the movement said on Saturday, following months of pressure on the Gulf Arab state from its neighbours.

On Monday, Kerry will attend a conference in Paris that will bring Iraqi authorities together with 15 to 20 international players. The talks come ahead of a U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting on Sept. 19 and a heads of state meeting at the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Eylül 2014, 10:54

Muhammed Öylek

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