Kazakhstan: Warm Welcome For Egypt’s Visiting President
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has paid a rare visit to Kazakhstan, where his host Nursultan Nazarbayev hailed the visiting Arab leader as a force for unity and stability in his troubled home country.
These themes are close to the heart of Kazakhstan’s long-ruling leader, who never misses a chance to tout the benefits of unity and stability as a bulwark against political unrest and revolution.
“We are very glad that, despite the internal conflicts, bloodshed and revolution that have taken place in recent years, the people of Egypt have united and expressed their trust in the new president,” Nazarbayev said after a meeting in Astana on February 26, in remarks quoted by his office.
Sisi rose to power through the type of political upheaval that Nazarbayev — who has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since independence a quarter of a century ago — views as anathema.
Egypt’s president was installed following a bloody military coup in 2013 that overthrew the elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, since which time around 1,000 have since been killed in unrest stemming from opposition to Sisi’s rule. Morsi had come to power after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Sisi’s visit to Kazakhstan launched an Asian tour that the Egypt Independent newspaper described as part of a foreign policy tilt eastward by Cairo.
He has a controversial image in the West, owing to his ruthless suppression of the opposition in Egypt, where Morsi is on death row, among around 1,200 people sentenced to execution on political charges since Sisi took office.
Nazarbayev, who met Sisi last May, in Moscow, also keeps opposition on a tight leash, and Sisi is highly unlikely to face any pro-democracy protests in Astana of the type witnessed during his controversial visit to London last year.
There were no reports of any agreements signed in Astana, but Nazarbayev and Sisi discussed nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes, according to a joint statement quoted by the Novosti-Kazakhstan news agency.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest uranium supplier and is to open an internationally-backed nuclear fuel bank to act as a safe store for some global reserves next year. Egypt last year signed an agreement with Russia to build a nuclear power plant to kickstart its atomic energy program.
Ahead of the visit Kazakhstan restored air links to Egypt, which had been suspended following last fall’s bombing of a Russian charter flight from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last fall in a terrorist attack which has devastated Egypt’s tourist industry.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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