NIGERIA: Gunmen abduct female customs officer

WAJIR, Kenya, (Xinhua) — At least two people were killed and some others injured by suspected Al-Shabaab militants who vandalized a communication mast in the northeastern Kenyan county of Wajir.

North Eastern Regional Coordinator Mohamed Saleh confirmed on Saturday night that militants on Friday night destroyed a mast run by mobile operator Safaricom and set a car on fire in the Tarbaj area near the border with Somalia.

The attackers used improvised explosives in the attack, Saleh said, adding that reinforcement had been deployed to the area to pursue the attackers.

This is the third mast to be destroyed by militants in the Kenyan border region in less than a month. Two other masts were destroyed in Mandera county in similar attacks.

Saleh said the authorities had mapped all masts in the border region with an aim of deploying officers to protect them.

No group has claimed responsibility for the Friday attack but suspicion has fallen on Somalia-based Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which has staged a series of attacks in Kenya in recent years.

Al-Shabaab has carried out several deadly attacks in the Kenyan border region this year, mainly targeting non-Muslims and police officers.


UN envoy warns against renewed violence in central Somalia

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) — The UN envoy for Somalia has expressed concern over renewed violence between rival states in the central Somali town of Galkayo, which killed at least three people and injured several others on Friday.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Michael Keating, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, called on the warring states of Puntland and Galmudug to honor a ceasefire agreement reached last month.

“Puntland and Galmudug must resolve their differences in a non-violent manner and immediately agree on steps to dismantle the roadblocks, reopen the roads, and pull back the forces without further delay. Any spoiler against peace and stability should be scrutinized,” Keating said.

Galkayo is currently divided into two parts, governed by Galmudug and Puntland respectively. The town has been plagued by recurrent clashes between the neighboring states over its control.

Recent fighting in Galkayo that first broke out on Oct. 7 has killed more than 45 people and displaced tens of thousands.

Keating said the situation in Galkayo has raised serious humanitarian concerns.

He said trucks carrying humanitarian food supplies for people affected by drought had been blocked on the northern side of Galkayo over the past three weeks due to road blockades.

Since the initial withdrawal of forces on Nov. 18, the joint committee of local authorities and elders from the two states has made efforts to sustain the ceasefire through dialogue.

However, a stalemate in the negotiations over removing roadblocks installed by both states and opening the roads is putting the ceasefire in serious jeopardy.

The tension came amid food insecurity in areas that are usually reached by humanitarian groups through Galkayo.

“It is unprecedented for humanitarian supplies to be denied access by either side,” said Keating.

He called on the authorities of Galmudug and Puntland to immediately find a solution to the blockades to guarantee the safety and free movement of relief workers and supplies.

Keating said the continued tension could prompt another mass displacement in Galkayo, where fighting had displaced an estimated 90,000 people since October—about 30,000 displaced people have not returned home due to fear of renewed fighting. 


Al-Shabaab militants kill soldier, civilian in Somali capital

MOGADISHU, (Xinhua) — Somali security forces are pursuing Al-Shabaab militants who killed a soldier and a civilian in the capital Mogadishu, a local official said Sunday.

Mogadishu municipal government spokesman Abdifatah Omar Halane told reporters that the militants killed the two on Saturday night in the Wadajir district.

The Al-Shabaab Islamist group has claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming its fighters killed two soldiers and recovered two AK47 riffle guns.

Al-Shabaab has carried out frequent attacks in Somalia in its decade-long fight against the Somali government.

The latest attack came as security has been tightened in Mogadishu for presidential election slated for the end of the year. 


Two killed in suicide bomb attacks in Cameroon

YAOUNDE, (Xinhua) — Two suspected suicide bombers were killed after attempting to launch attacks on Sunday morning in Cameroon, one security source told Xinhua.

Two young men suspected to be members of Nigerian Islamic sect Boko Haram killed themselves after detonating bombs attached to them at the entrance of one market in Mora,  a small town in Far North Region near the border with Nigeria.

The source said the attacks took place at around 8 a.m. and no other victim is reported at the moment.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission has formed a multinational forces, which stations in Mora with the particular objective of eradicating terrorist threat in the region.


Ethiopia vows not to harm rights of Nile Basin countries

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) — Ethiopia on Sunday reiterated its commitment not to harm the rights of any Nile Basin countries, calling for optimal use of the Nile water.

Ethiopia’s minister of foreign affairs, Workneh Gebeyehu, also underscored at a press conference his country’s keenness to establish integrative relations with the Nile Basin countries to achieve joint interests.

Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia signed Declaration of Principles in March 2015 in Khartoum regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), articulating the continuation of talks on political and technical issues, as well as conducting technical studies to protect the three countries’ shares in the Nile.

The GERD project unsettled Egypt as it fears the dam could impact its share in the Nile River waters, which amounts to 55.5 billion cubic meters.

Ethiopia reiterated that the dam would constitute a benefit in field of electricity generating without posing any harm on either Sudan or Egypt.

Projected to be the largest hydro-electric project in Africa, the GERD extends over an area of 1,800 square kilometers, and is expected to be completed in three years at a cost of 4.7 billion U.S. dollars.


Libyan plane hijackers charged with terrorism at Malta court

VALLETTA, (Xinhua) — The two Libyan plane hijackers appeared at a Maltese court on Sunday, charged with a string of offences including terrorism.

The two Libyan men, 28-year-old Ali Saleh and 27-year-old Moussa Soko, arrived at Malta Law Courts on Sunday noon, escorted by armed guards.

They were charged with hijacking the plane and holding the 109 passengers and 6 crew members against their will.

Both the hijackers calmly denied the charges in court. They did not file a request for bail.

On Friday, they hijacked the Libyan flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways, and diverted it to Malta International Airport.

The plane was flying a domestic route in Libya in the day, from the southern city of Sebha to its original destination of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

After a four-hour standoff at the Maltese airport, all passengers and crew were safely released.

The two hijackers surrendered peacefully. They were later found to have used replica weapons for the hijacking.

VALLETTA, (Xinhua) — A hijacker ©, who hijacked and diverted an internal Libyan flight to a Maltese airport, arrives at the Maltese court escorted by heavy armed guards in Valletta, Malta, Dec. 25, 2016. The two Libyan plane hijackers appeared at a Maltese court on Sunday, charged with a string of offences including terrorism. XINHUA PHOTO: MARK ZAMMIT CORDINA

Christmas fire guts part of Rwanda’s prison

KIGALI, (Xinhua) — A fire razed one room at Rwanda’s Nyarugenge Prison in Kigali on Sunday, causing minor injuries, authorities said.

Hillary Sengabo, Senior Inspector of Prisons (SIP) at Rwanda Correctional Services said the burnt room accommodated 68 inmates.

He said rescue efforts by army and police were there in time to put out the fire before it spread.

Rwanda’s Minister of justice, Johnston Busingye who oversees prisons said the affected area was estimated at 2o square meters occupied by about 15 inmates.

He added that their mattresses and other personal effects were destroyed in the afternoon fire.

There is no report of loss of life as inmates were alerted by gun shots in the air, Minister Busingye said.

The cause of the fire was not readily established.

Authorities said some three inmates were injured and were receiving treatment.

This is the second fire incident in Rwanda’s prison in recent times, the earlier one having taken place at Muhanga prison in 2014.

Nyarugenge prison has 3,127 inmates, according to authorities.


Sudan reduces restrictions on humanitarian organizations

KHARTOUM, (Xinhua) — The Sudanese government on Sunday reduced restrictions on humanitarian organizations operating in the country as it approved new amendments on guidelines of the humanitarian work, Sudan Tribune reported.

The new guidelines come “under the noticeable security improvement at all Sudan states,” said Ahmed Mohamed Adam, Sudan’s humanitarian aid commissioner.

The guidelines involve reducing the restrictions on movement of organization personnel, which lower requirements of “permission” to “notification” in “safe areas,” while keep requirements of “permission” in hazardous areas.

He expressed hope that the new amendments would be a motive for achieving a joint humanitarian response to reach the aspired goals.

International humanitarian organizations usually complain about government restrictions on movement of their personnel at conflict areas.

Sudan government justified restriction on the organizations and UN agencies at hotspot areas to security reasons. 


Libyan prime minister visits Algeria to boost peace process in Libya

ALGIERS, (Xinhua) — Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Saraj on Sunday arrived in Algiers as part of a working visit to discuss with Algerian top officials the developments in Libya and ways to boost peace talks aimed at restoring peace and security to this eastern neighboring troubled nation.

Upon his arrival in Houari Boumedien International Airport of Algiers, al-Seraj told reporters that his visit is part of continuing consultations between the two neighboring nations to reach positive settlement to the crisis hitting Libya for more than five years.

The Libyan PM hailed “Algeria’s key role and constant support to the national unity government, saying he is due to discuss several issues with the Algerian officials, including recent developments taking place in Libya in addition to the efforts that are underway to settle the crisis.

Upon his arrival, al-Seraj was welcomed by his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal, and Minister of Maghreb, African Union and Arab League, Abdelkader Messahel.

The visit of al-Sarraj is “an opportunity to reaffirm Algeria’s consistent support to the peace process on the basis of a political solution, inclusive dialogue and national reconciliation, while respecting Libya’s national sovereignty,” said a statement of the Algerian Foreign Ministry.

Al-Seraj’s visit follows that of Libyan Major General, Khalifa Haftar, who paid a quick working visit to Algiers on Dec. 18.

Fayez al-Seraj last week announced that Haftar’s forces managed to control the key city of Sirte after chasing away Islamic State militants.

Libya has been hit by a civil war after the toppling of late leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011. The collapse of the regime there transformed the country into a battlefield of different armed groups, including terrorists.

Libya now has two rival parliaments, namely the internationally recognized one, based in the eastern port city of Tobruk, and the General National Congress (GNC) based in capital city Tripoli supported by General Haftar.


Tunisia arrests three linked to Berlin market attacker

TUNIS, (Xinhua) — Tunisian security forces have arrested the nephew of Berlin Christmas market attacker Anis Amri and two other jihadist suspects, the interior ministry said on Saturday in a statement.

Amri convinced his nephew to swear allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist organization, the statement said.

Amri’s nephew said he had been in contact with his uncle through telegram, it said.

The Tunisian public prosecutor has ordered the three to be taken into custody over suspicion of being involved in terrorist crimes.

Monday’s truck attack in Berlin left 12 dead and 48 others injured.

The Italian government said earlier on Friday that Amri was shot and killed by police during a routine patrol in Milan.


Roundup: Nigerian troops capture Boko Haram’s enclave in Sambisa forest

LAGOS, (Xinhua) — Nigerian troops combating Boko Haram terrorists in restive northeast region have crushed Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest, President Muhammadu Buhari said Saturday.

In a statement made available to Xinhua, the Nigerian leader lauded the troops on the successful capture of the Boko Haram enclave in Sambisa forest.

Buhari who expressed delight, said he was proud of the troops.

“I am delighted at, and most proud of the gallant troops of the Nigerian Army, on receipt of the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa forest,” he added.

“I want to use this opportunity to commend the determination, courage and resilience of troops of Operation Lafiya Dole at finally entering and crushing the remnants of the Boko Haram insurgents at Camp Zero, which is located deep within the heart of Sambisa forest,” he said.

“I was told by the Chief of Army Staff that the Camp fell at about 1:35 p.m, local time on Thursday, Dec. 22, and that the terrorists are on the run, and no longer have a place to hide,” the Nigerian leader said.

He urged the troops to maintain the tempo by pursuing the terrorists and bringing them to justice.

The president called on all Nigerians to cooperate and support the Nigerian Armed Forces and other security agencies by providing useful information that would expose all the terrorists hiding among the populace.

He urged the troops to further intensify their efforts toward liberating the remaining Chibok girls still in captivity.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Chief of Army staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai also commended the efforts and sacrifices of gallant officers and men of the Nigerian Army currently engaged in the counter insurgency operations in the North East and other operations across the country and abroad.

“I congratulate you for your bravery, doggedness and loyalty in these endeavours. I want to urge you all to maintain the momentum and remain steadfast as we continue to professionally and responsively carry out our constitutional roles,” Buratai said in a Christmas and New Year message to the troops.

“On my part, I will continue to ensure that troops’ welfare and that of their families, remains my utmost priority,” he said.

The Nigerian government said in December 2015 that Boko Haram had been “technically” defeated and was no longer capable of conventional warfare, instead resorting to guerrilla attacks on soft targets.

The Sambisa forest, especially the mountainous region of Gwoza near the Cameroon border, was used as a shelter of the jihadist Boko Haram group.

The Boko Haram seeks to enshrine the Islamic Sharia law in the Constitution of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer in the continent.

Nigeria, with approximately 180 million population, shares land borders with Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east and Niger in the north. 

The northern part of the country is plagued by violence, including attacks by the Boko Haram sect.


Nigeria committed to completing Lagos-Calabar rail project on time: minister

LAGOS, (Xinhua) — The rehabilitation of old railway lines and completion of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail line are a focus of the federal government, Minister of Transportation said on Saturday.

In a statement made available to Xinhua, minister Rotimi Amaechi said the rehabilitation of the old railway lines of Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri and ensuring that the construction of the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail line is completed within the specified time remain its target.

According to him, the government is determined to ensure that works on Lagos-Kano Rail line commence in earnest to facilitate the movement of goods and passengers unhindered.

“The construction work on the Lagos-Ibadan segment of the Coastal Rail line will commence in January 2017,” he added.

The transport minister said President Muhammadu Buhari is eager to reflate the economy and deliver to the people the gains of his administration.

Amaechi said one of the core mandates of the present administration is to fulfill the needs and aspirations of Nigerians, adding that government would ensure it achieve its promises.

On the issue of the National Fleet for the maritime sector, the minister said government had gone far in attracting interested investors.

He said the government is mindful of the provision of the law which stipulates 60 percent for local investors and 40 percent for foreign investors. 


Cholera sparks fear in central Tanzania during festive season

ARUSHA, Tanzania, (Xinhua) — At least seven people have died of cholera in central Tanzania’s region of Dodoma due to a cholera outbreak, authorities said Sunday.

Authorities in the region have, therefore, on Sunday banned selling of food stuff by the roadsides and other open places during the festive season, citing a possible escalation of the epidemic.

James Kiologwe, Dodoma Regional chief physician warned residents, saying that at least 329 people contracted the disease in the latest outbreak. He warned that if no strict measures were taken the entire region would be affected.

“I urge the public to be more careful during the festive season, avoid eating carelessly on the streets and maintain hygiene since the disease is likely to spread further if we don’t comply with health standards,” the official said.

He cited Mpwapwa as leading other districts in the Dodoma Region with 208 cholera cases, followed by Kongwa (95), Chamwino (18) and Dodoma (8).  The district also led in deaths with three cases as both Kongwa and Dodoma districts witnessed two deaths each.

Following the new outbreak of the disease, Christine Mndeme, Dodoma District Commissioner said she had initiated a campaign against the disease aimed at eradicating it in the district.

She called on ward and village health officers to spread awareness and education on the disease, urging them to quickly report any cases realized within their areas of jurisdiction.

In October last year, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare notified the World Health Organization of new cholera outbreaks in 13 regions in the country, during which 68 people died.


Tanzania considers releasing rescued oldest black rhino into wild

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) — Tanzanian conservationists and wildlife experts in the Ngorongoro crater said on Saturday they are thinking of releasing into the wild, Fausta, a 63-year-old female black rhino, believed to be the oldest in the world.

Freddy Manongi, Chief Conservator for the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA), said the aged female rhino was sent into a cage after being wounded by hyenas and eventually being perched by Oxpeckers.

“The rhino has stayed inside the cage for a month now,” said Manongi, adding that the rhino which has never given birth to any calves in its entire life is among more than 50 rhinos found inside the crater.

He said they are now thinking over releasing the rhino into the wild after its gaping wounds caused by the hyenas had started healing.

“Those hyenas must have taken advantage of her frailty which is why they attacked it, but we are determined to let it live for many more years,” Manongi said.

“This forced us to put it in a cage to protect it from further attacks as it was on record for being the oldest black rhino in the world,” he said.

The rhino’s thrust into the limelight comes three weeks after wildlife enthusiasts in Kenya mourned the death of Solio, the country’s oldest rhino which died at the age of 42 years, surpassing the average wild black rhino lifespan of 30-35 years.

Early this week, Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa formed an investigative team to probe the mysterious disappearance of a male black rhino called John after it was moved from the Ngorongoro crater to the Sasakawa Black Rhino Sanctuary in the Grumeti-Serengeti game reserve where it reportedly died.

Rhinos are among the most poached animals in East Africa with their population dwindling, forcing authorities to keep them in protected areas.

The Tanzanian rhino management plan developed in 1998 set a goal of increasing the current population of black rhinos of 60 individuals to 100 individuals by 2018 through active metapopulation management.

Save the Rhino, a UK-based conservation charity, estimates that there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, the charity says there are 29,000 rhinos in the wild. 


Kenyan economy grows by 5.7 percent in 3rd quarter

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — Kenya’s economy is estimated to expand by 5.7 percent in the third quarter of 2016 compared to 6 percent in the same quarter of 2015, the national statistics agency said on Sunday.

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi said generally, the economic growth was well spread although most of the sectors of the economy recorded slower growths compared to last year.

The growth of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector is estimated to have slowed to 3.9 percent  in the third quarter compared to 5.5 percent during the same quarter in 2015, Mwangi said in a statement.

“Growth in the sector was dampened by poor performance in the production of tea and coffee that declined by 0.3 and 4.0 percent,” Mwangi said.

The slowed growth in agricultural sector was also aggravated by slowed external demand as reflected by a 36.7-percent decline in the volume of fruit exports, he added.

He said that the activities of the manufacturing and the construction industries also recorded notable slowdown in growths.

However, the hospitality, transport, storage, wholesale and retail trade, information and communication, health and public administration all registered improved growths during the third quarter.

KNBS also reported that Kenya’s current account deficit narrowed by 10.4 percent from 1.1 billion U.S. dollars in the third quarter of 2015 to 986 million dollars in the third quarter of 2016. 


Yearender: Egypt to receive new year with
remaining economic, security challenges

By Mahmoud Fouly CAIRO, (Xinhua) — As the countdown is ticking for receiving the new year 2017, Egypt bids farewell to 2016 with remaining economic and security challenges in addition to ups and downs in its foreign relations, particularly with its leading oil-rich Gulf ally Saudi Arabia.

While Egypt is adopting tough measures to implement a three-year economic reform program, assisted by a 12-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country is struggling to combat a terrorist wave that has recently hit a Coptic church in Cairo and killed so far 28 of its worshippers.


Egypt has been suffering economic recession due to political turmoil over the past six years that witnessed the ouster of two heads of state: the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak and the 2013 military-backed uprising that toppled former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and blacklisted his Muslim Brotherhood group as a terrorist organization.

As a result, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves at the central bank declined from 36 billion U.S. dollars in early 2011 to 23 billion as of December 2016 after it was 19 billion in October 2016. In addition, tourism that brought the country 13 billion dollars in 2010 less than halved in 2016. Foreign investments sharply declined as well.

Dollar shortage in the financial market negatively affected a lot of import-based businesses, which led Egypt in early November to devaluate its local currency, a move encouraged by the IMF that delivered later in November 2.75 billion dollars to Egypt as the first batch of the 12-billion-dollar loan.

The one dollar that used to be officially exchanged for 8.8 pounds approached 20 pounds in banks now, which led to price hikes in commodities, besides fuel and energy subsidy cuts and austerity as part of the economic reform plan.

“The foreign currency crisis in Egypt will remain as long as demand for dollar is larger than offer in the market, and instability of the local currency is worse than its floatation,” Ahmed al-Sayed al-Naggar, economist and chief of state-run Al-Ahram foundation and newspaper, said in a recent article. 

Economists believe that Egypt needs to move its economy from interest-based to export-based. It needs to not rely only on the revenues of tourism and the Suez Canal as main sources of foreign currency but to focus on industrialization and exportation although they have a long way to go.

Egypt’s current annual exports amount to about 25 billion dollars while its imports are about 77 billion, so the country needs six times increase of exports to create an actual balance of trade, for about 75 percent of the components of future exports will mostly be imported.

To achieve economic progress, the Egyptian government is currently working hard on a number of mega national projects, including the establishment of a new administrative capital city, the development of the Suez Canal region, the construction of power plants and several others.


Since Morsi’s military removal in July 2013 and the later crackdown on his supporters that left about 1,000 of them killed and thousands arrested, anti-government terrorist attacks killed hundreds of police and military men, hitting the country’s tourism and foreign investments.

The security conditions further deteriorated after a Russian plane crash in Sinai that killed over 200 Russians in October 2015 and a tragic fall of an EgyptAir flight in May 2016 that killed all 66 people on board including 15 French.

A Sinai-based militant group loyal to the regional Islamic State (IS) terrorist group claimed responsibility for most of the terror attacks in Egypt, including the Russian plane crash, while the December 11 church blast was claimed by the main IS group itself.

The attacks mostly target military and police personnel in checkpoints or on duty, as in the recent bomb attack that killed six policemen in Giza province near the capital Cairo.

Carried out by a suicide bomber at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church adjacent to Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, the church bombing marks a qualitative change of terrorist tactics from targeting security personnel to a civilian minority, taking Egypt’s anti-terror war to another level.

To limit terrorism, the Egyptian leadership detained most Brotherhood leaders and loyalists who did not flee the country, considering them the source of terror that has been hitting Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow.

In October, Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, rejected Morsi’s appeal and confirmed his 20-year prison sentence over inciting clashes between his supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in late 2012 that left 10 people dead.

Later on, and one day before the church bombing, the same court confirmed the death sentence of Islamist extremist Adel Habbara over a 2013 anti-military attack that killed at least 25 soldiers in restive North Sinai province. His execution was carried out later on Dec. 14.

While Egypt is going through an anti-terrorism war declared by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi after he as then-military chief removed Morsi, sporadic terrorist attacks are growing worldwide including the recent cold-blooded assassination of Russian ambassador in Ankara, Turkey, and the simultaneous deadly truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, that killed 12 people.


During 2016, Egypt’s economic and cultural ties with China grew even stronger as the year was referred to as the Egyptian-Chinese Cultural Year. The two countries already have “comprehensive strategic partnership” and they continue investment and economic cooperation as instructed by their two leaders. Their annual trade volume increased from 6.8 billion dollars in 2011 to 12.9 billion in 2015.

In early December, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the People’s Bank of China (PBC) signed a deal that is worth 18 billion yuan (about 2.6 billion dollars) to bolster Egyptian economic growth amid dollar hike.

Despite the Russian terrorist plane crash in Egypt’s Sinai, strategic relations between Moscow and Cairo have not been affected. Egypt hosted in October its first joint paratroopers’ military exercise with Russia dubbed “Friendship Protectors 2016.” Russia also plans to build Egypt’s first nuclear plant as per an agreement signed in late 2015.

However, Egypt’s relations with Arab fellow Qatar and regional power Turkey remained tense in 2016 due to the two countries’ host of fleeing Brotherhood loyalists as well as their support of Morsi and criticism of Sisi.

As for Iran, Cairo refrains from normalizing ties with Tehran that have been severed since 1979 despite recent warm statements of Iranian officials. Still, they both share support for the Syrian regime against armed rebels they refer to as terrorists.

Egypt’s clear position on Syria and support for President Bashar al-Assad angered its strong oil-rich Gulf ally Saudi Arabia, which led Gulf states excluding Qatar to support Sisi with billions of dollars and tons of oil supplies since Morsi’s removal. 

Riyadh criticized Cairo’s vote in October for two rival Syria-related United Nations Security Council (UNSC) draft resolutions including one proposed by Russia, whose troops are currently assisting Assad’s army in Syria. A sign of tension later appeared when a Saudi national oil company suspended its fuel shipments to Egypt. 

Having a U.S.-sponsored peace treaty since 1979, ties between Egypt and Israel, the U.S. number one ally in the Middle East, are seen at best under Sisi, with the two states coordinating security measures at the border lines of the restive northern part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

On Friday, the UNSC massively endorsed a resolution demanding immediate and complete halt of Israeli settlement activities on occupied Palestinian territories.

Egypt, which initially proposed the draft resolution, attempted to delay the whole vote, which was seen as response to a bid from the U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, yet the Egyptian foreign ministry later explained that the requested delay was only meant to make sure veto right will not be exercised against the resolution.

As for relations with the United States, the mutual praise between President Sisi and Trump indicates closer ties between Cairo and Washington when the American business tycoon takes over the White House in January.

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