Cairo: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi started a visit to Japan on Sunday, the first by an Egyptian head of state in 16 years as his country is seeking to diversify its ties beyond its traditional Western allies.
In Tokyo, Al Sissi will also meet Japan’s business leaders to encourage them to pour money into his investment-hungry country.
He will also confer with the head of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, as well as Tokyo’s governor, Egyptian media reported.
Annual Egyptian-Japanese trade is estimated at $4 billion ($14.7 billion) amid efforts by the Sissi administration to revitalise economy battered by years of political upheaval.
The countries will sign three cooperation pacts to upgrade the Bourj Al Arab airport in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, build a solar energy plant in the Red Sea town of Hurghada and develop three electricity plants in Egypt, which is struggling to overcome an energy crunch.
Al Sissi’s visit to Japan is part of a three-nation tour that already took him to Kazakhstan. The third and final leg will be South Korea, where Al Sissi is set to declare upgrading the Cairo-Seoul ties to the level of “full partnership,” according to Egyptian media.
Since taking office in mid-2014, Al Sissi has shown keenness to expand Egypt’s links beyond its decades-old alliance with the US. He has exchanged visits with leaders of Russia and China.
During the three-day visit, Al Sissi will meet senior Japanese officials including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito.
Al Sissi is due on Monday to make a “historic” address at the Japanese parliament, Egyptian official television reported.
“President Al Sissi will discuss with the Japanese officials several topics including the Middle East problems and combating terrorism, an issue to which Japan attaches great importance after some of its citizens were targeted in some countries,” Egyptian Ambassador in Tokyo Ismail Khayrai said.
In an interview with the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Al Sissi said a US-led military coalition against the terrorist Daesh in Syria and Iraq “has been ongoing for more than one year, but [Daesh] activities have not declined.”
He described the spread of terrorist groups including Daesh as the “gravest danger for all humanity”, according to Egypt’s semi-official newspaper Al Ahram.
Egypt supports the US-led campaign against Daesh, but has not taken part in its military operations. A Daesh affiliate has claimed a string of deadly attacks in Egypt in recent months.