With the administration of US President Donald Trump forming a new policy towards the Middle East, Defense Secretary General James Mattis arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon to discuss regional security issues with top officials on Friday, with Iran topping the list.Greeted by members of the American embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli army’s defense attaché in Washington, Gen. Mickey Edelstein, Mattis arrived from Cairo on his third leg of a 5 country Middle-East tour billed by the Pentagon to discuss to “defeat extremist terror organizations”. Mattis and Liberman, who met in Washington in March have already discussed issues such as the ongoing civil war in Syria and the threats posed by Iran, and the Israeli Defense Minister will brief him against on the numerous threats to Israel in the region, including on its northern border where there is a growing presence of Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. Known as a hawk on issues related to Iran, last month in London Mattis recalled a statement he made in 2012 in which he stated that the three gravest threats to American national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran”, an echo of Liberman’s statement at the Munich Security Conference in February that main challenges facing the region were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and [saying] that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today”, Mattis said in March.After his visit to Israel, Mattis will head to Qatar.
The Tobruck’s government, guided by Abdullah Al-Thinni, had been a meeting in the Cairo to ask more sustain to Haftar’s operations. The visit comes before the meeting of the Arab foreign ministers at the Arab League prior to the Arab Summit that will take place in Amman. But Egypt has also gave its sustain to Tripoli’s government, which sustain BDB (Benghazi Defence Brigade) so the opposition of the HoR (House of Representatives) which act on the ground under the LNA (Libyan National Army). Each Libyan’s governments is trying to receive the sustain of Egypt, but Egypt seems to be more in favour of the GNA (General National Accord) than the HoR, since conflicts in the Oil Crescent. Egypt could be the State who will help to unify Libya, and allowed discussions between the divergent fractions.
After events of last weeks in North Sinai, the Cairo has taken measures to stabilize the region, even if, as seen last Saturday with the murder of one Egyptian by terrorists, the situation is still precarious. This doubt about the real security in North Sinai was put in question again on social media with the diffusion of photos of militants from the IS-affiliated group of “Sinai Province”, while carrying out a checkpoint inside central Al-Arish. On photos, we can see ISIS’ militants armed of guns, inspecting civilians cars near El-Faleh Square, center of Al-Arish. On the situation of militants’ adhoc checkpoints, El Refaay clarified that the militants are hiding between civilians in Al-Arish and only appear when they are sure that police forces are far away. Thus, the situation in North Sinai, even if its officially under control of the Cairo seems to be quite difficult. Affiliated terrorist groups have infiltrated population and try to control parts of the city with some checkpoints.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed cooperation between both countries in combating terrorism and irregular migration at their meeting in Cairo on Thursday. Merkel arrived in Cairo earlier in the day on a two-day visit to meet with President El-Sisi and other Egyptian top officials, her first visit to the country since 2007. During the meeting, Sisi and Merkel inaugurated via video conference the first phase of a project managed by the German power giant Siemens to build three new power plants in Egypt. El-Sisi said that the current turbulent situation in the region is not only a threat to the Middle East but also to Europe and the whole world.Merkel promised to provide Egypt with $250 million in support for its economic reform program.The German Chancellor described the reform program as courageous and praised Cairo’s commitment to honour the terms of the $12 billion loan extended by the International Monetary Fund to the country.Merkel also criticised countries which she said are involved in supporting terrorism in the region, expressing hope that Egyptian efforts to solve disputes in the region, especially in Libya, would see success.The German Chancellor also described the Egyptian-Tunisian-Algerian initiative – which aims at finding a solution to the Libyan conflict – as important and successful.
Egypt’s Defence Minister Sedky Sobhi discussed with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin means of bolstering military cooperation during talks in Cairo on Tuesday, Egypt’s army said in a statement. The two leaders looked at efforts to “boost cooperation…and exchanged views on the regional and international developments and effects on security and stability in the Middle East,” said the statement, published on the army’s official Facebook page. In October 2015, Egypt and Russia held military exercises on Egyptian soil for the first time. Egypt is in talks with Russia to resume flights to its popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, over a year since the bombing of a Russian passenger jet that killed all 224 on board and prompted a suspension of air traffic. Egypt is struggling to revive tourism, a key source of hard currency, which has been hard hit since the 2011 uprising ushered in a period of political turmoil.
Members of Libya’s High Council of State have agreed to meet a delegation from the Libyan House of Representatives in Cairo as part of talks hosted by Egypt to reach a political settlement to the Libyan civil conflict, according to Egypt’s army spokesman. Egypt’s Army Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi, who is mediating talks between Libyan factions, received on Thursday the delegation from Libya’s High Council of State with the attendance of Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry. Talks were held on Monday and Tuesday between the chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council Fayaz Al-Sarraj, who is based in the capital Tripoli in the west of the country and is recognised by the UN as the country’s president, and Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who both represent the House of Representatives in eastern Libya’s Tobruk. Attendants of the meeting expressed their appreciation for the Egyptian role to reach a solution to the Libyan crisis, calling on Libya’s House of Representatives to make use of this opportunity to save the situation in the country. Over the past months, Cairo has held meetings with different Libyan political factions, where Egypt has stressed the need for a political consensus to end the crisis in the country.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated there is no alternative solution to the two-state solution in resolving the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. Guterres statement came during a joint press conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo. Guterres met with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi Wednesday to discuss regional developments and cooperation between Egypt and the United Nations. On regional issues, the UN chief underlined the importance of carrying on with the Geneva track on ending the Syrian crisis, as well as providing a suitable atmosphere for reaching national reconciliation in Libya.
Italian ambassador Giuseppe Perrone has confirmed Italy’s view that the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), KhalifaHafter, has to be part of the solution to the Libyan crisis. He also stressed the LNA’s importance in the fight against terrorism in the country. He was speaking as Hafter was in Cairo for talks with the head of the Presidency Council Faeiz Serraj about his possible role in the political structure of Libya. “Italy believes there should be unified military organisation representing Libyans” the ambassador said in an interview. He added that Italy looked forward “to working with all Libyans who are committed to the fight against terrorism and to achieve stability in Libya”. Italy, along with France, the UK and other Western states and the UN have swung round to the view that Hafter, previously seen as an impediment to peace in Libya, has to be part of the political set-up. Perrone also reaffirmed that Italy had no active military presence in Libya, and dismissed the allegation that the Italians had been responsible for shooting down a Libyan National Army helicopter last week as complete nonsense.
President Michel Aoun on Monday started his first visit to Cairo since his election in October and held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “Hopes of the role that Egypt could play are high. An Egypt of moderation and openness… could launch an Arab rescue initiative based on a strategy to fight terrorism,” Aoun said at a joint press conference. The two sides “agreed on the need to stand together against the dangers of terrorism,” Sisi said, adding that Egypt was ready “to support the capabilities of Lebanon’s army and its various security bodies”. On Tuesday, Aoun will visit Jordan at the invitation of Jordanian King Abdullah II.