© AFP / Mohamed El-Shahed | US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on September 13, 2014 in Cairo
Speaking in the capital Cairo, the US Secretary of State said that “as an intellectual and cultural capital to the Muslim world,” Egypt has a “critical role” to play in denouncing the extremist group’s harsh ideology.
The United States wants Egypt to use its leading Islamic authority Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of religious learning, to send a message of moderation across the Middle East to counter Islamic State’s extremist ideology.
Though Egypt is unlikely to send troops to battle the Islamic State group it could provide logistical and intelligence support to the coalition, while its experience with fighting terrorism within its own borders could prove valuable.
Cairo's involvement in the coalition may also help to soothe its relations with Washington, after the United States suspended –– then restored –– military aid when the army ousted elected Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.
Morsi's successor, the former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is fighting Islamist militants in the restive Sinai Peninsula who have expressed support for the Islamic State.
"Egypt is on the frontline of the fight against terrorism, particularly when it comes to fighting extremist groups in Sinai," Kerry told a news conference following talks with Sisi.
Egypt sees ‘ties of cooperation’ between terrorist groups
Speaking alongside Kerry, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said ties existed between Islamic State and other militants in the region and that global action was needed to counter the threat.
“Ultimately this extremist ideology is shared by all terrorist groups. We detect ties of cooperation between them and see a danger as it crosses borders,” said Shukri.
“We believe that rejecting terrorism is a collective responsibility of all members of the international community. There should be definite steps to achieve this target.”
Egypt’s call for international action could bolster Kerry’s bid to gather support for President Barack Obama’s plan to strike both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier to defeat Islamic State Sunni fighters.
Kerry won backing on Thursday for a “coordinated military campaign” against Islamic State from 10 Arab countries –– Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar –– while France and Britain have also offered varying degrees of support.
But it is unclear what role individual nations will play.
Obama’s plan to fight Islamic State simultaneously in Iraq and Syria thrusts the United States directly into the midst of two different wars, in which nearly every country in the region has a stake, alliances have shifted and strategy is dominated by Islam’s 1,300-year-old rift between Sunnis and Shiites.
Islamic State is made up of Sunni militants, who are fighting a Shiite-led government in Iraq and a government in Syria led by members of a Shiite offshoot sect.
Kerry’s visit to Cairo followed a trip to Turkey Friday, a country that could also play a key role in any military operation against extremists in the region.
However, Turkey, which has the second-largest armed forces in the NATO military alliance after the United States and hosts a major US Air Force base at Incirlik in its south, has so far conspicuously avoided committing to any military campaign.
The country has backed mainly Sunni rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Although it is alarmed by Islamic State’s rise, Turkey is wary about any military action that might weaken Assad’s foes, and is concerned about strengthening Kurds in Iraq and Syria.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told Reuters some Arab states at talks in Jeddah on Thursday had proposed expanding the campaign to fight other Islamist groups besides Islamic State, a move Turkey would also probably oppose.
Egypt would welcome any move that would further isolate the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that the army removed from power last year.
Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood, killing hundreds of members and jailing thousands of others. Egypt has declared the Brotherhood a terrorist group.
Qatar has asked seven senior figures from Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood to leave the country, the movement said on Saturday, following months of pressure on the Gulf Arab state from its neighbours to stop backing the Islamists.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-09-13