Egypt's Sisi says army will defend Gulf Arabs in case of direct threat: newspaper

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the army will come to the defense of Gulf Arabs if they face any direct threats, a pro-government newspaper said on Tuesday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Youm7 newspaper also quoted Sisi as saying in response to a question on U.S. sanctions on Iran: “Instability affects us all and any state that has instability affects all of us.”

Sisi’s Egypt is aligned with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, joining their boycott of Qatar last year and opposing Iran’s regional influence.

“Our Arab peoples must remain aware and have true consciousness of what the region is going through,” Youm7 quoted Sisi as saying at a youth forum in the Red Sea city of Sharm al-Sheikh.

“We stand by our brothers in the Gulf wholeheartedly and if Gulf security is directly threatened by anyone, the Egyptian people, even before their leadership, will not accept that and will mobilize forces to protect their brethren.”

Sisi also said Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait “need to be together more and their peoples should support the security and stability of their countries,” state news agency MENA reported.

The five countries are among eight Arab nations involved in joint military exercises that began in Egypt on Saturday in a move that could evolve into a regional pact to counter Iran’s influence.

Answering a question on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Sisi said Saudi Arabia was “bigger than someone shaking its stability,” according to MENA.

“We must all wait for the investigations into the case because the media has not had a positive role and we must trust the wisdom and bravery of King Salman,” he added.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of the Saudi government and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Saudi officials initially insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate, then said he died in an unplanned “rogue operation”. The kingdom’s public prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb later said he was killed in a premeditated attack.

Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Yousef Saba; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Aidan Lewis