Cairo and Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian Armed Forces chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi began an official visit to the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. During the visit he will meet a number of senior Emirati officials to discuss military cooperation, as uncertainty continues over when he will launch his widely expected presidential bid.
Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, an official spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces, told Asharq Al-Awsat that military cooperation between Egypt and the UAE would move into a new phase “to take advantage of the expertise in both countries in this field.”
He praised the roles played by the UAE and Saudi Arabia in supporting Egypt during the transitional phase that followed the ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013.
Both states have pledged billions of dollars of aid to Egypt in a bid to shore up its ailing economy.
He was welcomed on arrival in the UAE by Gen. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Senior Egyptian and Emirati military officials were also present at the meeting between Sisi and Sheikh Mohammed.
During Sisi’s visit, the Egyptian and Emirati armed forces held joint exercises with units from their land, air and naval forces, as well as presidential guard forces.
Ali also told Asharq Al-Awsat that the aim of Sisi’s visit was to “observe the joint exercises and inspect them alongside Emirati officials.” He stressed that the main objectives of the visit were “strictly military.”
On March 9, an Emirati company, Arabtec Construction, signed a contract with the Egyptian Army to build 1 million housing units in Egypt at an estimated cost of 40 billion US dollars, in one of the region’s biggest housing projects.
Ali said: “There are many positive stances taken by the UAE towards Egypt, which do not stop at the housing project.” He added that “the Saudi and Emirati roles, especially since July 3 [Mursi’s ouster], showed a lot of support for Egypt at both political and economic levels.”
He further added: “We are taking the cooperation with the UAE to a new level, which is the military level and cooperation between the two sides to benefit from the expertise in both countries.”
Sisi is widely expected to stand for—and win—the presidency in the next round of elections, scheduled to take place later this year. The Armed Forces spokesman said that Sisi’s participation in the presidential elections was only “a matter of time,” and that the field marshal was “obliged to first offer his resignation to the Military Council before he offers it to the president of the republic.” Sisi would have to resign from both his military post and his civilian positions of deputy prime minister and defense minister before he can run for the presidency.