The leaders of the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan and Iraq have gathered on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast for a summit that has been hailed as an opportunity to enhance inter-Arab partnerships.
President Sheikh Mohamed arrived in the coastal city of New Alamein on Sunday, where he and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi were joined on Monday by Bahrain's King Hamad, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.
The five leaders informally met on Monday, when they “exchanged views on ways to strengthen bilateral relations and co-operation” between their countries, the Egyptian presidency said.
They also attended a ceremony on Monday night to inaugurate a large seaside resort in New Alamein, celebrated by a huge fireworks display.
The conflict, involving two of the world's biggest grain producers, has caused food and energy prices to rise steeply.
Diplomatic sources familiar with the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting said the leaders would also review economic co-operation and consider national security, as well as regional and international issues.
Blue Nile dam on agenda
Egypt's state-owned Al Ahram daily, citing a diplomatic source, said a dispute pitting Egypt and Sudan against Ethiopia over its nearly completed dam on the Blue Nile would also be up for discussion in Tuesday's meeting.
The $4.2 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, set to be the largest hydroelectric project in Africa, has been at the centre of a regional dispute since Ethiopia broke ground on the project in 2011. Egypt and Sudan want Ethiopia to enter a legally binding agreement on the operation and filling of the dam. Addis Ababa has rejected their demand, arguing that guidelines should suffice.
The wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya, as well as the Israel-Palestinian conflict, are also on the agenda, the Egyptian daily said.
Iraq was the only country among the original five summit participants that does not recognize Israel.
Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979, Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, and the UAE and Bahrain normalised ties with it in 2020.
Time for 'serious joint Arab action'
“This summit gives Arab citizens a dose of optimism that the time has come for serious joint Arab action,” said Egyptian political analyst and retired diplomat Mustafa Al Fiqi.
Egypt's former assistant foreign minister Mohamed Hegazy, now a political commentator, said the summit “offers a glimpse of hope to Arab nations because it aims to reach Arab solutions for the crises besetting the region”.
A significant level of co-operation among the five nations is already in place.
Last month, Bahrain joined the Industrial Partnership for Sustainable Economic Development that had previously comprised the UAE, Egypt and Jordan.
The agreement boosts the industrial manufacturing value add of the informal alliance to more than $112.5 billion.
The partnership aims to establish large joint industrial projects, create job opportunities, contribute to a growth in economic output, diversify the economies of the partner countries, support industrial production and boost exports, said officials.
President Sheikh Mohamed with Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Egypt — in pictures
Separately, Egypt’s vastly expanded power generation capacity has allowed it to export electricity to Jordan. Extending its grid to cover Iraq is also under consideration.
The UAE has provided Egypt with billions of dollars in central bank deposits and investments to help mitigate the impact of its ambitious reform programme and, most recently, the fallout from the Ukraine war.
New Alamein, where the leaders are meeting, is one of about a dozen cities built since Mr El Sisi took office eight years ago. Located west of Alexandria, it is defined by its seafront tower blocks.
Tuesday’s summit will take place a short distance away from the site of joint war games involving commando units from the UAE and Egypt, underlining the growing military co-operation between the allies.