Egypt's Sisi opens New Suez Canal, says it's to defeat terrorists

Egypt received a show of international support on Thursday as it inaugurated a major extension of the Suez Canal which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes will power an economic turnaround in the Arab world's most populous country.

hidden August 07, 2015 09:15:06 IST
Egypt's Sisi opens New Suez Canal, says it's to defeat terrorists

Ismailia: Egypt received a show of international support on Thursday as it inaugurated a major extension of the Suez Canal which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hopes will power an economic turnaround in the Arab world's most populous country.

The former armed forces chief, who led a military takeover two years ago but ran for president as a civilian last year, told a ceremony attended by French, Russian, Arab and African leaders that Egypt would defeat the terrorism that dogged the project.

Egypts Sisi opens New Suez Canal says its to defeat terrorists

A cargo container ship crosses the new section of the Suez Canal. AP

"Work did not take place in normal circumstances, and these circumstances still exist and we are fighting them and we will defeat them," Sisi said after signing an order allowing ships to cross the New Suez Canal.

"We promised a gift to the world and we accomplished it in record time - an additional artery for prosperity and for connecting civilization to enhance the movement of international trade," he said, as the first vessel, a container ship called CMA CGM TITAN, blew its horn and passed through the canal.

The $8 billion project was completed in just one year instead of three on Sisi's orders, but economists and shipping analysts question whether there is sufficient traffic and east-west trade to meet its ambitious revenue targets.

The canal expansion is the centerpiece of a grand agenda by Sisi to cement his tenure as the man who brought stability and prosperity to Egypt after he ousted elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests.

The inauguration ceremony was also intended to bolster his international standing in the presence of French President Francois Hollande, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, King Abdullah of Jordan, the emir of Kuwait and the king of Bahrain.

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo on 2 August for a strategic dialogue with Egypt, but no top-level representative of the Obama administration attended the ceremony. Ambassador Robert Beecroft and Darrell Issa, a Republican US Representative from California, attended.

Egypt's allies are keen to burnish its image in a region beset by turmoil. Cairo too faces an increasingly brazen two-year-old insurgency based across the Suez Canal in the Sinai peninsula that has killed hundreds of police and soldiers.

In an ominous turn, Islamic State's Egyptian affiliate released a video on Wednesday threatening to kill a Croatian hostage within 48 hours if Muslim women prisoners were not freed. Last month, the group managed to fire a rocket at an Egyptian navy vessel in the Mediterranean, near the coast of Israel and the Gaza Strip.

But Egyptian authorities say the safety of ships through the strategic canal has never been under threat.

Reuters

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