Egypt gears up for upcoming economic summit in restive Sinai

February 8, 2015 9:58 am 

By Mahmoud Fouly

CAIRO, Feb. 8 (PNA/Xinhua) — egypt is currently facing real security challenges to pave the way for its long-awaited economic summit in March in South Sinai's Sharm El-Sheikh resort, particularly after the deadly terrorist attacks in the northern part of the restive peninsula.

In late January, a series of simultaneous terrorist attacks and suicide bombings against security men and premises in North Sinai killed more than 30 military and policemen in addition to 14 civilians.

Earlier in October 2014, a car-bomb attack also in North Siani killed around 30 Egyptian soldiers.

The Egyptian leadership is determined not to make the security challenges in Sinai affect its upcoming economic summit where it will offer worldwide partners foreign investment opportunities that are worth billions of U.S. dollars.

"The economic summit is the arm of Egypt," said President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi last week in his remarks on the recent deadly attacks, reiterating that the summit will be held as planned.

Ahmed Eliba, researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, sees that the security challenges in Sinai will not be "an obstacle" for the intended economic summit.

"egypt is no longer fighting terrorism alone like in the 80s and the 90s, but for the first time the world is fighting the same kind of terrorism represented in the al-Qaida and the Islamic State (IS) terrorist groups," Eliba told Xinhua.

He added that world is now aware that terrorism is a challenge but not an obstacle for economic gathering and foreign investments.

Terrorist activities mounted in Sinai and other provinces across the country since the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi by the military in July 2013 and the crackdown on his supporters that left about 1,000 of them killed and thousands more arrested.

Most of the attacks were claimed by Sinai-based, al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (AMB) group, which has recently changed its name into "Sinai State" as a group loyal to the IS under its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Eliba expressed belief that there is a difference between terrorists like those of the ABM and IS and political Islamists like those of the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is currently blacklisted as "a terrorist organization," arguing that political Islamists do not carry weapons nor do they resort to violence in general even though they might have done it on some occasions.

After meeting with the country's top military council last week, Sisi made a presidential decree to form a unified military leadership for the region of eastern the Suez Canal, which includes Ismailia and the Sinai Peninsula, for fighting terrorism.

"This is a very important procedure to minimize extremist groups in Sinai and prevent their expansion," said Eliba, noting that Egypt has a long-way to go on its anti-terrorism war as expressed by Sisi himself.

The support of leading oil-rich Gulf States to the Egyptian new leadership is also one of the major reassurances for Egypt's upcoming economic summit, especially after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have recently decided to deposit 10 billion dollars in the Central Bank of Egypt in support for the fellow Arab country.

"I believe the Egyptian economy will go on the right track and the economic summit in March will be a success despite the attempts of terrorists who would carry out some activities here or there to distort the image of Egypt's safety," Eliba said.

For his part, security expert Mohamed Kadry sees that Egypt's recent announcement to allocate 10 billion Egyptian pounds (about 1.3 billion dollars) for the development Sinai is a major step in the right direction.

"Improving the economic conditions and the development of Sinai have great importance in combating growing extremism in the peninsula," the retired military general told Xinhua, stressing that development should not be restricted to the capital Cairo.

Kadry added that Sinai is "a sensitive region" that needed quick development and earnest work to improve its conditions and tighten opportunities for the spread of extremism thoughts there.

The security expert also praised the move of uniting military leadership for the region of eastern the Suez Canal and the Sinai Peninsula for fighting terrorism, especially that the region is seeing undergoing national projects such as the expansion of the Suez Canal and the development of its surrounding region.

Some 30,000 workers are now doing the dredging and expansion work for the Suez Canal under supervision of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority. The project, which is not far from Sinai, is scheduled to be completed in August as ordered by President Sisi.

"The mix between military men and civilians in such areas of large national development projects shows Egypt's control of the security conditions in the region," Kadry said.

Kadry echoed Eliba's view that the economic summit in Mrach will be "a success" and it will bring Egypt huge foreign investments due to the unprecedented incentives the summit will provide.(PNA/Xinhua)



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