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Egypt’s FM: ‘NATO Middle East’ Not Currently on the Table

Despite reports circulating in the media of the imminent formation of a military alliance in the Middle East similar to NATO, this is not likely to happen anytime soon, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said during a press conference in Bahrain.

The proposal will not be raised during any upcoming events, he added, “in reference to the upcoming summit with the US president in Saudi Arabia next month.”

“We certainly always strive to activate the joint Arab mechanisms and capabilities that protect Arab security, and we have great capabilities, and we are in constant consultation on various issues, whether military, political, or otherwise,” Shoukry continued during a press conference in Manama during the two-day visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Bahrain.

“The establishment of a new military legal alliance or organization requires great consultations, and it is not on the table at the moment,” Shoukry said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II recently expressed support for such a framework.

Dr. Abdullatif Al Zayani, the Bahraini foreign minister, said during the same press conference in Manama that “there was no final agreement on the agenda for the upcoming summit with President Biden from the nine countries [Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates] meeting with the United States of America.”

He explained, “Before any summit, the foreign ministers meet, and we are now in the process of finalizing the agenda among us, and the final approval by the presidents.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Bahraini Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif al-Zayani speak at a joint press conference in the Bahraini capital Manama, on 29 June 2022. (Hudhaifa Ebrahim/The Media Line)

El-Sisi’s visit to Bahrain began on Tuesday. He has held two meetings with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and another with the Crown Prince/Prime Minister Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, accompanied by a large government delegation, where consultations took place on several topics, especially economic, security and political issues.

During the visit, Bahrain and Egypt signed 10 agreements in the fields of economy, education, food security, tourism, and others, to be implemented as soon as possible. President el-Sisi also attended the official opening of the new Bahrain International Airport terminal with the king.

El-Sisi arrived in Bahrain after a two-day visit to Oman during which several bilateral agreements were also signed.

The Egyptian foreign minister stressed that “the intensive visits that are taking place between leaders and leaders of Arab countries, and the visits that President el-Sisi is currently making, come to unify positions and convey visions to international partners.”

The joint final statement by Bahrain and Egypt stressed “the need to intensify efforts to reach a comprehensive and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and to find a real horizon for returning to serious and effective negotiations to achieve peace, in accordance with the principle of the two-state solution, the relevant international legitimacy resolutions and the [2002] Arab Peace Initiative, in a manner that guarantees the Palestinian people its right to establish an independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

In the statement, King Hamad affirmed Bahrain’s support for Egyptian water security in connection to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam issue and called on Addis Ababa to abide by international law and not to take any unilateral measures regarding the filling and operation of the dam.

Bahrain and Egypt agreed to support Arab efforts to urge Iran to abide by the international principles of noninterference in the affairs of Arab countries, to preserve the principles of good-neighborliness, and to spare the region all destabilizing activities, including supporting armed militias and threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines, the statement added.

Hala el-Said, the Egyptian planning and economic development minister, announced in a press conference that “Bahrain ranks 16th in foreign investments in Egypt, with 216 companies and a total capital of $3.3 billion.”

Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s finance minister, said at the press conference, “The agreements between Bahrain and Egypt aim to raise trade exchange between Bahrain and Egypt from $800 million annually to more than $1 billion next year.

“We also aim to double investment in Egypt. The Bahraini assets in the banking sector in Egypt amount to $8 billion, and we will seek to double this number to higher levels in the coming years,” he added.

Zayed Alzayani, the Bahraini industry and commerce minister, told The Media Line, “The $800 million trade exchange is the highest number reached by Bahrain and Egypt, and we will seek to double it.”

He continued, “We presented Egypt with the status of ‘partner’ last April, and today it has been activated, which allows Egyptian companies operating in the logistics sector to exploit the passage between the seaport and the air airport in the kingdom, to ensure the flow of materials in less than two hours. Egypt is one of the countries that will benefit from this, and the field is open to other countries.”

During el-Sisi’s visit this week to Oman, he held bilateral talks with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, and major economic agreements were signed between the two countries, similar to those signed with Bahrain.

Egypt also agreed with the Sultanate of Oman and Bahrain to establish a separate joint investment fund with each country, to be concerned with investing in feasible projects in vital sectors.

El-Sisi’s visit to Bahrain comes less than 10 days after King Hamad visited Egypt and is the fourth since el-Sisi assumed office in 2014.