Egypt's Sisi make Algeria his first foreign trip, security tops agenda

ALGIERS Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:33am EDT

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi answers a question upon his arrival at Algiers airport June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi answers a question upon his arrival at Algiers airport June 25, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Louafi Larbi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday made his first trip abroad since taking office, seeking Algeria's support to counter Islamist militancy in north Africa.

"We have a lot issues between us and Algeria. We've got the problem of terrorism and we want to coordinate positions. We have the problem of Libya," Sisi told Egyptian and Algerian television during his visit to Algiers.

The two North African countries both have long borders with Libya where, three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, a weak central government is struggling to contain Islamist militants and brigades of former rebels and militias.

Sisi, who was in charge of the army when it forced Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Mursi from power after mass protests, has been criticized by many countries for a heavy-handed crackdown on internal dissent. But Egypt's strategic position still makes it an important security partner for the West.

Sisi said this week he would not interfere with a court’s decision to jail Al Jazeera journalists, despite an international outcry.

He told Reuters before his election that Libya was becoming a major security threat to Egypt, with jihadis infiltrating across the border to fight security forces.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah stopped in Cairo last Friday to show his strong support, the first foreign leader to visit Sisi since he took office.

Algeria is also in talks on selling natural gas to fuel Egyptian power plants.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

FILED UNDER: