Abu Dhabi crown prince discusses Red Sea security in Cairo talks

The United Arab Emirates was instrumental in helping Addis Ababa and Asmara end their decades-old hostilities.
Sunday 12/08/2018
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd R) walks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on his arrival at Cairo’s airport, on August 7. (Egyptian Presidency)
Timely visit. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (2nd R) walks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on his arrival at Cairo’s airport, on August 7. (Egyptian Presidency)

CAIRO - Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan travelled to Cairo for an unannounced visit that included talks with Egyptian officials before Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the crown prince for longer discussions.

Talks between the two leaders focused on bilateral ties, Egyptian Presidency spokesman Bassam Radi said.

“Egyptian-UAE relations have had their special relations for decades,” he said in a statement. “Egypt is always keen on pushing cooperation with the UAE in all fields forward.”

Radi said the two leaders discussed the situation in Yemen, developments in Libya, threats to security in the Red Sea and UAE peacemaking efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The United Arab Emirates was instrumental in helping Addis Ababa and Asmara end their decades-old hostilities, a development that could have far-reaching repercussions for security in the Horn of Africa region and the Red Sea.

The timing of Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit to Cairo, analysts said, was very telling and reflected a growing Arab concern over developments in other parts of the region, including Yemen with Iranian interference threatening oil supplies from wells in the Arabian Gulf.

“Iran insists [putting] Arab political and economic security at risk, especially by maintaining its support to Yemen’s Houthi militia,” said Tarek Fahmi, a political science professor at Cairo University. “This makes it necessary for Arab states to join hands and take action.”

This was Crown Prince Mohammed’s second visit to Cairo this year and his ninth since Sisi became president of Egypt four years ago.

The United Arab Emirates recently completed naval drills in the Red Sea with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The exercises included counterterrorism and reconnaissance operations, demonstrating preparedness on the part of Arab countries for emergencies in the Red Sea region.

“Such drills show that relations between some Arab countries, specifically Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are becoming more than just ordinary relations between sister countries,” said Egyptian political analyst Abdel Monem Saeed. “These relations are becoming strategic in every aspect.”

Statements by Crown Prince Mohammed after meeting with Sisi clearly expressed that. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, he wrote on Twitter, are united by a long-standing historical relationship that is growing ever stronger.

“We stand together firmly against all attempts to interfere in the affairs of the Arab region or to undermine its security and stability,” he said.

The crown prince’s visit to Cairo was just weeks after the Iran-backed Houthi militia fired a missile at two Saudi oil tankers off the coast of Yemen, causing some damage to one vessel. The attack led to a suspension of Saudi oil shipments through the Bab el Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal. Those shipments have resumed.

A sizeable portion of the canal’s traffic includes tankers from oil-producing nations in the Gulf and a suspension of shipments through the strait-Suez Canal route would significantly harm Egypt’s economic interests.

When Crown Prince Mohammed’s plane touched down at Cairo International Airport, the United States had just started applying the first stage of tough economic sanctions against Iran. There are hopes the sanctions will make Tehran less capable of interfering in Arab affairs.

Iran is accused of supplying the Houthis with missiles they have fired at Saudi cities. Following the attack on the Saudi oil tanker, the leadership of the Houthi militia said it was capable of attacking other Arab countries, not only Saudi Arabia.

“These developments make it necessary for Arab states to further their cooperation to protect their national security,” said Emirati political analyst Mohamed al-Hammadi. “Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have whatever it takes to counter Iranian threats to the security of this region.”

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