President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave a three-part interview to Egypt’s state-owned newspapers: Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhouria, in which he raised the peace process between Palestine and Israel, Egypt’s ailing economy and the country’s human rights situation.
The first part of the interview, published on Monday, discussed Egypt’s foreign relations; the second part promoted state programs that are reportedly aimed at alleviating economic pressure from lower income Egyptians, and the last part, published on Wednesday, delved into more controversial topics, such as sectarian strife, corruption and the shortcomings of Egyptian media.
Following statements he made in May about Egypt’s eagerness to play a role in reaching a resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Sisi reiterated the Egyptian government’s support for the United States’ efforts over the years, as well as the Arab peace initiative and the French initiative, adding: “Our relationship with Palestinian and Israeli parties allows us to play a central role to finding a resolution to the peace issue.”
When asked about whether or not he sees a change in the Israeli perspective towards peace, Sisi claimed Israel’s conviction towards finding a resolution has increased, which he said is a “positive indication.”
Sisi asserted that the current challenges the nation is facing don’t fall on him alone but are the responsibility of all Egyptians. He stressed that the government’s economic reform plan is independent from the loan it is seeking from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that Egypt followed regular procedures, presenting its program for approval, without specific stipulations from the IMF regarding its economic reforms.
“Would either the government or I want to put pressure on its own people or let them suffer?” Sisi asked, adding that the government is applying regulations to create balance and ease the pressure from the middle and lower classes.
He went on to list a number of state policies intended to aid those with limited incomes, such as social housing projects, and increasing the benefits of pensions and major national projects, such as the new administrative capital, which he said he hopes will provide many new job opportunities.
He also denied rumors the government plans to reduce the number of public sector employees, reportedly a condition of the loan from the IMF.
“As a human being, I adhere to preserving human rights and respecting them, the priority of which, in my opinion, is the right to safety. We should look around us to know the value of safety in our country,” Sisi urged.
He went on to say that human rights are not restricted to freedom of opinion and expression: there are numerous other rights, he asserted, such as the right to shelter, food, and medicine.
Sisi stated that there are no political prisoners in Egypt, rather there are prisoners who were arrested for committing violent crimes against the state. He added that, despite this, there would be 300 prisoners issued presidential pardons within the coming days, including people with health issues, young people who took part in protests, and a number of journalists.
When asked about sectarian strife, Sisi blamed the media for its coverage of recent incidents of sectarian violence that took place in Upper Egypt.
“We want our democratic process and our media to be up to the standards of national responsibility,” he said.
The president went on to say that he does not consider articles on Egypt in the foreign press to be a conspiracy against the country, but rather a reflection of what is being said in Egypt’s local media. “When we asked the Italians, ‘On what basis did you accuse the police of killing Italian [researcher Guilio] Regeni,’ they said, ‘Based on what was published in your newspapers and media’.”
Finally, Sisi said he would run for president again, as he must respond to the will of Egyptians. “I am subject to the will of the people,” he emphasized, reiterating this point when asked directly if he would run for a second term.