President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi addressed Saturday “the concern in some of the public opinion” about Egypt’s intervention in Yemen, stressing “it is not aggression” but for the Middle East’s “defence and security”.
Egypt fears the closure of the Bab Al-Mandab strait will negatively affect trade through the Suez Canal. Al-Sisi noted that the Bab Al-Mandab strait is “an Egyptian and Arab national security issue”.
The comments were made following his meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Saturday. During the meeting, discussions took place on the internal situation in Egypt, including that in North Sinai. Amongst other topics was the securing of Egypt’s western border with Libya, as well as the developments in Libya and Yemen.
Regarding Egypt’s internal situation, Al-Sisi noted in his speech that “we are achieving security and stability by the day more than previous times”.
The armed forces have been engaged in a “war” against militants in North Sinai where the insurgent is at its peak.
Egypt’s western border with Libya has seen militant activity as well, as the situation in Libya witnessed a deterioration since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Islamists have taken control of several areas in Libya, including the capital Tripoli.
Egypt launched airstrikes in cooperation with Libya’s interim government in February in the city of Derna in Libya, which is known to be the location of Islamists. The airstrikes occurred in response to the beheading of 20 Coptic Egyptians in Sirte by “Islamic State” affiliates in Libya.
The evacuation of Egyptians from Libya started mid-February, with the evacuation of Yemen-based Egyptians starting last week. The evacuation of Egyptians residing in Yemen is occurring in coordination with Saudi Arabia and Oman, to facilitate the return of Egyptians through their borders.
Egyptian Armed Forces’ Chief-of-Staff Mahmoud Hegazy headed to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, to attend a meeting with his counterparts from different Arab countries. Arab leaders concluded during the Arab league’s 26 session last week “to establish a military force” which will fall under the supervision of a high-level team of Chiefs-of-Staff from the region’s armed forces.
Saudi Arabia, backed by Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, launched airstrikes on Yemeni capital Sana’a last week, which is currently under control of the Houthi Shi’a rebels.
According to an armed forces statement, Egypt will support the GCC countries decision. Egypt added it will participate in military operations “to restore stability and legitimacy in Yemen” through returning Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power.
Al-Sisi added: “We will not abandon our brothers in the Gulf.”
He also said that Egypt’s interference in Yemen during the 1960s is different from “the reality” now. Egypt is also seeking a political solution for the crisis to “to spare us all unwanted losses”, Al-Sisi added.
Former President Gamal Abdel Nasser involved the Egyptian army in Yemen’s 1962 civil war, which formed a financial and military burden on Egypt.