All Terrorists Must Be Targeted, Not Just IS: Sisi

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has stressed the importance of an international coalition to combat not only Islamic State but also all terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa.

He made the comments during a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

The US is taking the lead in an international coalition aimed at defeating Islamist extremists spreading across parts of Iraq and Syria. Militants from the so-called Islamic State have so far murdered thousands and declared a Muslim caliphate.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson also attended the meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo.

According to a presidency statement, Kerry highlighted that Egypt would be playing a key role in the coalition and that there were strong ties between Egypt and the US.

Egypt and the US have had a patchy relationship since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July of last year. The US temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt amid a crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

Upon the election of former army chief al-Sisi as president in June, the US Congress unfroze $1.5 billion in mostly military aid.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Ihab Badawi, said al-Sisi warned of the consequences of foreign fighters in some Middle East conflicts, especially Syria and Iraq, and their role in fuelling the conflicts.

The Egyptian president and the top US diplomat agreed that the strategy to combat terrorism should not only include military tactics, but also initiatives by religious entities like Al-Azhar to raise awareness in the Middle East of the danger of terrorist groups.

Kerry said there were some issues that may represent an obstacle to the resumption of any cooperation between the US and Egypt, particularly regarding freedom of expression and the detention and trial of journalists.

On his behalf, al-Sisi stressed that Egypt was paving the way to establishing the rule of law which respects the judiciary and its provisions, as well as respecting the separation of powers and the new constitution with all its rights.

Kerry mentioned the trial of the three Al Jazeera journalists who were sentenced in June to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years for spreading false news and aiding the Brotherhood, a group outlawed and designated a terrorist organisation by Egyptian authorities.

The case against Australian journalist Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed sparked an international outcry and heightened fears of the muzzling of media freedom in Egypt.

The top diplomat discussed also a number of other issues concerning the region, among which was the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Both al-Sisi and Kerry agreed that a final agreement needed to be reached by the two sides in order to prevent more bloodshed.

Source: Ahram Online

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