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What did Sisi discuss in Kuwait?

During his Sept. 1 meeting with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reiterated that “the national security of Kuwait and the Gulf countries is an integral part of Egypt’s national security.”

According to an Egyptian presidency statement Sept. 1, the two leaders discussed anti-terrorism efforts, and agreed “to bolster security cooperation between the two countries and to strengthen cooperation to fight terrorist forces seeking to spread strife and vandalism in different countries.”

Political analysts and experts on Arab relations spoke to Al-Monitor about the importance of the meeting between Sisi and Sabah since it comes at a time when security coordination between the two countries is increasing. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior had arrested a Muslim Brotherhood cell July 12 and handed its members over to Egypt July 14.

Kuwait and Egypt have also been coordinating their political and security stances regarding some Arab crises, such as the Gulf crisis. Kuwait has been playing the role of mediator since June 2017 to resolve this crisis, in the wake of which Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar. So far, no progress has been made.

Abdul Menhem Said, political analyst and former director of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor, “Relations between Egypt and Kuwait are quite important, whether at the political, economic or security levels. The arrest of the Brotherhood terrorist cell in Kuwait and its handover to Egypt prove the significance of these relations. At the same time as Sisi’s visit to Kuwait, Egyptian Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek paid a separate visit to Kuwait, during which he signed an agreement between the two countries regarding dealing with individuals wanted by security and prosecuting them.”

Sadek signed a memorandum of understanding and judicial cooperation with his Kuwaiti counterpart, Darar al-Asousi, Sept. 1, allowing the exchange of information between the Kuwaiti and Egyptian public prosecutions and judicial aid through diplomatic channels. The understanding also set forth the right of each party to inquire about some cases or question witnesses to complete the files of some cases.

Sadek told the Middle East News Agency Sept. 4 that signing the memorandum with Kuwait is part of the Egyptian government’s plan to bolster judicial cooperation between the two countries to pursue criminals and fight terrorism.

Said said, “All the signs indicate that security relations between Egypt and Kuwait are on the right foot.”

Khaled Okasha, retired security expert and member of the National Counter-Terrorism Council, told Al-Monitor, “The security dossier is among several that Egypt and Kuwait closely cooperate on. Relations are strong between the two countries and have been so for decades. However, the recently resurfacing security coordination might have attracted the attention of the Arab public opinion, especially as it made successful strides in pursuing terrorists wanted by Egyptian authorities — mainly the Brotherhood cell — July 14.”

Okasha noted, “The judicial and security cooperation between Egypt and Kuwait is highly professional and developed. Kuwaiti authorities asserted that they would move forward with arresting any person implicated in terrorist activities and taking refuge in Kuwait and to hand them over to Egypt, in compliance with the agreements signed between the two countries.”

Okasha’s statements are in line with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah’s statements to the Kuwaiti News Agency July 15. Jarallah said that handing over the Brotherhood terrorist cell members to Egypt was part of joint agreements between the two countries, and that cooperation will continue in the future. He added, “We agree that both countries’ security is integral.”

Okasha noted that security is one of the key tracks between the two countries, but it is not everything. Egypt and Kuwait share political consensus, economic cooperation and joint Arab work. Kuwaiti investments in Egypt were discussed, as well as pumping more of them with the improving investment environment in Egypt.

Spokesman for the Egyptian presidency Bassam Radi said in a statement Sept. 1 that talks between Sisi and Sabah tackled boosting bilateral economic relations between Egypt and Kuwait, in light of the “economic reform plan, which allowed Egypt to make progress at the development level, inaugurate an advanced infrastructure and improve the investment environment. The two sides discussed investment opportunities in Egypt, given the privileges and incentives that the new investment law offers.”

The Egyptian government launched an economic reform program in November 2016, as part of a $12 billion loan approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Egypt has floated the Egyptian pound and encouraged investment among other steps required to receive the IMF loan.

On Aug. 31, the Egypt State Information Service released a statement saying that Kuwaiti investments in the public and private sectors in Egypt exceeded $15 billion in the past four years, and that around 1,227 Kuwaiti companies work in the trade and investment sector in Egypt. Trade exchange between the two countries reached $3 billion in the past four years.

Discussions between Sisi and Sabah also focused on several regional issues (whose nature was not revealed). They both underlined the importance of boosting joint Arab work to face challenges in the region, given the multiple dangerous crises in some Arab countries.

Said noted, “Kuwait plays an important role in Middle Eastern politics because it spearheads the Arab Gulf and is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It also has good ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and constitutes a link to Qatar, in addition to having relations with Iraq and Iran. The meeting between Sabah and Sisi aimed at exchanging views and information about different regional issues. Egypt considers Kuwait’s opinion important because it is at the center of events.”

Okasha argued, “Kuwait is playing a pivotal role in the Arab world, and Egypt must have all the details in a region rife with heated issues.”

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