Egypt’s Sisi says Cairo playing positive role in de-escalating Gaza crisis

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday that his country was playing a “very positive role” trying to de-escalate and find a diplomatic solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Egypt has taken an active role in negotiating access to aid for people in Gaza through the Rafah crossing, which it shares with Gaza, as well as in negotiations for hostage releases, while advocating for a ceasefire in the conflict.

Inspecting scores of Egyptian warplanes, tanks, and other military hardware at an exercise on the western edge of the Sinai Peninsula, about 135 miles (215 km) from Egypt’s border with the Gaza strip, he said that though Egypt had considerable military capabilities it would only ever use them wisely and in self-defence.

“It’s very important when you have this kind of power that you use it reasonably, wisely, and maturely and you don’t overstep and have illusions about your own strength,” he said, alluding to internal calls for Egypt to involve itself in the conflict.

“You have this capability to defend yourself … never let anger or fervour cause you to overstep,” he said.

Sisi, who met French President Emmanuel Macron in Cairo later on Wednesday, said the military exercise had been intended for events to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1973 war against Israel that started on Oct. 6, but had been postponed due to the conflict.

Speaking with Macron, Sisi said both leaders had agreed that any move to displace Gazans into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula – a move he had previously warned that Egypt would not bear – would be “extremely dangerous.”

The two men agreed to work to contain the crisis and prevent other actors from entering the fray, Sisi said.

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir and Nayera Abdallah; Additional reporting by Clauda Tanios; Writing by Ahmed Elimam and Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Toby Chopra, Deborah Kyvrikosaios and Jonathan Oatis)