President Tan, Egyptian leader see potential for growth in ties

President Tan inspecting the military guard of honour with Egyptian President Sisi at the presidential palace yesterday. Dr Tan, in Egypt on his first state visit, said that both countries have a "close partnership, anchored by shared interests". The
President Tan inspecting the military guard of honour with Egyptian President Sisi at the presidential palace yesterday. Dr Tan, in Egypt on his first state visit, said that both countries have a "close partnership, anchored by shared interests". The two leaders also highlighted the potential for ties to grow during a joint press conference.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

A military guard of honour gave President Tony Tan Keng Yam a ceremonial welcome at the Ittihadeya Palace yesterday, marking his first state visit to Egypt.

After both national anthems were played, Dr Tan inspected the troops with his host, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He then called on Mr Sisi, and delegations from both sides met to discuss various areas of cooperation.

The visit reciprocates Mr Sisi's trip to Singapore in August last year.

Dr Tan expressed confidence that the exchange of visits "has opened up new areas of cooperation and added impetus to bilateral relations".

Mr Sisi hailed the "common desire to promote ties of cooperation at all levels", saying the visit was a "breakthrough" in bilateral ties.

The two men were speaking to reporters at a joint press conference, during which they highlighted the strong ties between their nations and the potential for them to grow.

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognise Singapore's independence and establish diplomatic ties with it, and the visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Dr Tan noted the last few years were challenging for Egypt, but he was confident of its prospects.

"It is clear that the Egyptian people are resilient and keen to return to the path of progress and economic development," he said.

Egypt and Singapore have a "close partnership, anchored by shared interests", he added.

Both are key players in shipping, and Egypt "is blessed with the strategic Suez Canal, which is integral to global trade", said Dr Tan.

"The expansion of the Suez Canal and the development of the adjoining economic zone over the past two years are truly remarkable. This is a visionary project that has the potential to transform Egypt's economic prospects," he added.

Both countries can do more together economically, said Dr Tan, who was glad Singapore companies such as agribusiness firm Olam were active in Egypt. Others such as Hyflux and PSA Corp are seeking opportunities. Bilateral trade last year totalled $679.1 million.

Mr Sisi said he and Dr Tan agreed to "invigorate trade exchange". They also reviewed "promising" opportunities for Singapore to invest in areas such as the Suez Canal development corridor, ports, energy and desalination, he added.

Dr Tan said both nations are culturally, religiously diverse societies that value tolerance, "stand together against violent extremism... and share a common interest in promoting inter-faith understanding".

Mr Sisi has called for religious reform, and Dr Tan thanked him for his leadership on this front. Egypt's top Al Azhar University, where 240 Singaporeans are studying, monitors and rebuts radical ideology.

"Just as Singapore can learn from Egypt's experience in countering religious extremism, we are happy to share Singapore's developmental experience in areas relevant to Egypt," Dr Tan said.

He welcomed more Egyptian officials to train under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, adding: "We are also happy to support Egypt in its capacity-building efforts through technical assistance.

Mr Sisi also hosted Dr Tan and his delegation to a state lunch banquet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'President Tan, Egyptian leader see potential for growth in ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe