President Tony Tan Keng Yam in Egypt for five-day state visit

President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

CAIRO - President Tony Tan Keng Yam will arrive in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Sunday (Oct 30) for a state visit, his first as Singapore's head of state.

During the five-day visit, he will call on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and meet Prime Minister Sherif Ismail as well as attend a special graduation ceremony for Singaporean graduates of the renowned Al Azhar University, said the Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement yesterday.

Dr Tan's visit reciprocates Mr Sisi's state visit to Singapore in August 2015 and commemorates 50 years of ties between the two countries.

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognise Singapore's independence in 1965.

A year later, Singapore set up an embassy in the country - one of its first few oversea missions.

When Dr Tan arrives in Cairo, he will receive a ceremonial welcome at Ittihadeya Palace, where he will also be hosted to a state banquet by Mr Sisi.

But before the banquet, both leaders will witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding on technical cooperation between their two countries. It will cover such areas as public administration and education.

Dr Tan, who was in Egypt in 2005 when he was Deputy Prime Minister, will also meet the country's two top religious leaders: Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and Coptic Pope Tawadros II.

Coptic Christians make up an estimated 10 per cent of the 91 million people of Egypt.

Dr Tan will tour Al Azhar's Observatory for Foreign Languages, which plays a critical role in counter-terrorism. Its scholars monitor extremist ideology online and post their own rebuttals.

He will also be the guest-of-honour at the graduation ceremony of 47 Singaporeans from Al Azhar.

In all, 240 Singaporeans, or about 80 per cent of the 292 local students in Egypt, study at the university. Many of its alumni would, on returning home, become religious leaders.

Total bilateral trade with Egypt stands at $679.1 million last year and it ranks at No 7 among Singapore's Middle East trade partners.

Alongside the state visit, the Singapore Business Federation will lead a delegation from 12 companies.

Dr Tan will be accompanied by Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim; Minister of State for Trade and Industry as well as National Development Koh Poh Koon; Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry plus Education Low Yen Ling; and MP Chia Shi-Lu.

While he is away, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob will be Acting President.