President Tony Tan Keng Yam meets President Sisi, lauds close partnership with Egypt

President Tony Tan Keng Yam (left) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shake hands after speaking at a joint-press conference at the Ittihadeya Palace on Monday (Oct 31).
President Tony Tan Keng Yam (left) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shake hands after speaking at a joint-press conference at the Ittihadeya Palace on Monday (Oct 31). PHOTO: MCI

CAIRO - A ceremonial welcome with a military guard-of-honour greeted President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Ittihadeya Palace on Monday (Oct 31), marking his first state visit to Egypt.

After Majulah Singapura and the Egyptian national anthem 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 countries held a meeting to discuss various areas of cooperation.

Dr Tan's visit reciprocates Mr Sisi's August 2015 visit to Singapore.

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

Mr Sisi said there was a "common desire to promote ties of cooperation at all levels", adding that 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 this 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.

The past few years have been challenging for Egypt, but Dr Tan said 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.

Dr Tan said Egypt and Singapore have a "close partnership, anchored by shared interests".

Both are key players in shipping, he noted, pointing to how Egypt was "blessed with the strategic Suez Canal, which is integral to global trade".

"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," said Dr Tan.

Both countries can do more together economically, said Dr Tan, adding that he was glad Singapore companies such as agribusiness company Olam and shipping firm Pacific International Lines were already active in Egypt, and others such as Hyflux and PSA were also looking for opportunities.

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

Dr Tan also highlighted similarities between the two countries, both of which are culturally and religiously diverse societies that prize tolerance, and "stand together against violent extremism".

"Because of the plurality of our societies, Singapore and Egypt share a common interest in promoting inter-faith understanding," said Dr Tan.

Mr Sisi has pushed for religious reform, calling on Muslim clerics to firmly reject extremist teachings. The Al Azhar University, one of the most renowned Islamic centres of learning and where 240 Singaporeans are currently studying, also has an online observatory to monitor and rebut radical ideology.

"In this regard, I acknowledge and thank President Al-Sisi for his leadership in calling for religious reform," said Dr Tan.

"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," he added.

" During my discussion with President Al Sisi, I welcomed more Egyptian officials to undergo training under the Singapore Cooperation Programme. We are also happy to support Egypt in its capacity-building efforts through technical assistance," he said.

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