Saied’s visit to Egypt underlines common views on Libya, Nile
TUNIS – During his first official visit to Cairo, Tunisian President Kais Saied expressed his support to Egypt’s “water security” concerns in the Nile dam row opposing it to Ethiopia and underlined Tunisian and Egyptian support to the national integrity of Libya.
The points of agreement were announced after talks Saied held with Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saturday.
Kais Saied had arrived in Cairo on Friday for a three-day visit. He was welcomed at the airport by President Sisi.
The two leaders held “extensive and constructive” talks Saturday at Cairo’s Ittihadiya palace, Saied said.
“We hope that Libya goes down the correct path… There’s no way of dividing Libya,” he told a joint news conference with Sisi.
Libya is a neighbour to Egypt and Tunisia. The country plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi.
The two leaders also discussed the issue of the dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River’s main tributary. Egypt and Sudan consider the project a major threat if it is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.
The Tunisian president said his country supports Egypt’s position in the yearslong dispute. He said “any damage to Egypt’s water security is unacceptable”.
“We are looking for just solutions, but Egypt’s national security is ours, and Egypt’s position… will be ours.”
Sisi said he agreed with his Tunisian counterpart to cooperate on fighting terrorist groups and stemming their sources of support.
This particular point is likely to prove contentious with Islamist formations and leading figures in Tunisia, who even before the arrival of Saied to Egypt, expressed anger and concern about the visit.
Tunisian Islamists are traditionally critical of Sisi’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood which they portray as a victim of repression. They are also distrustful of any rapprochement between Saied and Sisi.
Former Tunisian president Mohamed Moncef Marzouki, an Islamist ally, said Saied “does not represent the revolution that allowed him to rise to power, nor does he represent Tunisia’s independence, the unity of its state, its interests and values, and most important of all, its honour, which is the most valuable quality of an individual and of people, in general.”
The Tunisian presidency did not comment on Marzouki’s statements, but said, in a statement Thursday, that the president’s visit to Egypt aims to “build bridges of communication and consolidate consultation and coordination between the leaderships of the two countries.”
The Islamist Ennahda Movement did not officially comment on Saied’s visit but the party’s supporters vented their anger in social media. Rashid el-Khiyari, an MP with the radical Islamist Dignity Coalition, which is closely aligned with Ennahda, criticised Saied, claiming his visit to Egypt is “prelude to normalisation with Israel”.
Saied’s visit to Cairo comes after his visit to Libya last March, when he held talks with a transitional administration that took office there to prepare for national elections scheduled for next December.