x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

UAE aid to Cairo shows bond of long friendship

Official assistance from the UAE and Saudi Arabia for the new government in Egypt is an act of brotherly support among Arab countries.

Egypt's second revolution in two and a half years is still under way, with a new interim prime minister finally announced. Countries in the region, having seen the disasters of the start of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, are keen to ensure that this military-led transition ends with something better than what has come before.

To this end, the UAE has moved swiftly to offer its support to the fledgling Egyptian government. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the National Security Adviser, was in Egypt on Tuesday to offer this country's political and economic support.

Meeting the Egyptian interim president Adly Al Mansour, he was also there to announce a Dh11 billion package of assistance, comprising a $1bn grant and $2bn in an interest-free loan. Saudi Arabia followed the UAE's lead and offered a total of $5bn, through various financial mechanisms. Kuwait also extended its $4bn aid package.

This is a brave step, and a necessary one. What Sheikh Hazza in Cairo called the tradition of the UAE supporting the Egyptian people is a bond of friendship between two Arab peoples. It is a bond that is daily strengthened by the interactions between businessmen and -women in Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and between friends and families.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, went further, contending that the rejection of the Brotherhood points the way to a new Arab awakening, one that the UAE must support. Egypt's second revolution, he wrote, was a statement that "political Islam cannot be allowed to suppress the broader popular will for moderation and tolerance".

With the removal of the Brotherhood's president, Egypt has a chance to turn a new page. And that is why the declaration by Sheikh Hazza is so necessary. Despite the strength of Egypt's military, its rule is expected to be brief. What is needed is a new political direction and while the new leadership in Cairo makes these difficult decisions, it will need financial support. The vast sums offered by the Gulf countries give the military-led transition time.

This transition is a difficult time for Egyptians, many of whom have seen loved ones hurt and livelihoods damaged. The financial aid packages from the Gulf nations demonstrate that Egyptians are not expected to weather this crucial time alone.