CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt staged a show of international support on Thursday as it inaugurated a major extension of the Suez Canal which President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi hopes will power an economic turnaround in the Arab world’s most populous country.
The former armed forces chief, who led a military takeover two years ago but ran for president as a civilian last year, told a ceremony attended by leaders of France, Russia, Arab and African states that Egypt would defeat terrorism.
The $8-billion New Suez Canal project was completed in just one year instead of three on Al Sissi’s orders.
“Work did not take place in normal circumstances, and these circumstances still exist and we are fighting them and we will defeat them,” Al Sissi said after signing an order allowing ships to cross the new stretch of waterway.
“Egypt during this year stood against the most dangerous terrorist threat that would burn the world if it could.”
The spectacular inauguration was also intended to bolster his international standing in the presence of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, French President Francois Hollande, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev, King Abdullah of Jordan, the emir of Kuwait and the king of Bahrain.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo on Aug. 2 for a strategic dialogue with Egypt, but no top-level representative of the Obama administration attended the ceremony.