US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 13, 2015
US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 13, 2015 © Brian Snyder - Pool/AFP
US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on March 13, 2015
AFP
Last updated: March 14, 2015

US 'committed' to Egypt economic reforms and security: Kerry

Banner Icon Arab states pledged $12 billion in investment aid to Egypt Friday as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hosted a conference aimed at jump-starting the economy and positioning himself as a key force against jihadists.

Egypt had secured billions of dollars in investment deals and aid pledges by Saturday at a conference hailed as a show of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his fight against jihadists.

Among the deals was a 4 billion euro ($4.2 billion) agreement with German conglomerate Siemens for a 4.4 gigawatt power plant in the energy-starved country, and an additional 2 gigawatts in wind power, a company spokesman said.

Another possible 6 billion euros are in the pipeline with memorandums of understandings inked for more power plants.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates each offered $4 billion on Friday, the first day of a conference attended by hundreds of business and political leaders in the coastal resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

The largest deal was penned with British Petroleum for a record investment of $12 billion in Egyptian gas fields with Russian partner DEA.

Sisi, who ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and brutally crushed his supporters, has sought to persuade allies that his country is on the front lines of a war against regional militants.

He has called for building a unified Arab force to fight the Islamic State group that has captured territory in Iraq and Syria, and which commands an affiliate in Egypt.

Cairo has already carried out air strikes against the jihadist group inside neighbouring Libya, where IS also appears to have gained a foothold.

Planning Minister Ashraf el-Arabi said the Gulf nations' pledge showed their support was "political, and this political support is very important in this phase".

Cairo University political science professor Mostafa Kamel al-Sayyed said that, "if it weren't for the for the political aspect, I think we wouldn't have seen the enthusiasm of several representatives of the Arab and Western states. Even China and Russia are standing by Egypt for the same reason.

"As for the companies, they have their own economic calculations but for sure they are affected by the political stances of their governments."

About 100 countries and international organisations are attending the three-day gathering aimed at attracting billions of dollars for Egypt's economy, battered by years of political turmoil.

Sisi, who has positioned himself as a bulwark against jihadists, said investing in the Arab world's most populous country would help stabilise the entire region.

Egypt's stability "is a cornerstone in regional stability," he told the conference.

- New capital planned -

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Sisi and the leaders of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, told business people Friday that Washington was "eager and ready and willing" to help Egypt's economic development.

He said Saturday Washington would decide "very soon" on freeing up $650 million in military aid frozen during the height of a crackdown on Sisi's Islamist opponents that killed hundreds.

Washington had released some of the aid, including the delivery of Apache helicopters Egypt says are important for its fight against Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula.

Sisi, who won elections after toppling Morsi, has been criticised for unleashing a crackdown on dissent.

The former army chief has portrayed his Islamist opponents as no different from radical militants such as those of IS.

"Egypt presents a model for Arab civilisation," Sisi said Friday. It is "a country that rejects violence and terrorism and extremism, a country that strengthens regional stability and peace."

Restoring the economy and attracting investment have been key tenets of Sisi's presidency.

In one of the biggest deals expected at the conference, British Petroleum is to sign a $12 billion deal -- shared with Russian partner DEA -- to develop Egyptian gas fields.

Plans were also unveiled for a new administrative and business capital east of Cairo that will house five million people and feature a theme park "four times bigger than Disneyland".

Housing Minister Mustafa Kamel Madbuli said the new city would relieve pressure on overcrowded Cairo, with its population of 18 million expected to double in coming decades.

"The idea to build the new city originated from our awareness that Cairo's current population will double in the next 40 years," Madbuli said Friday in a presentation showcasing the details.

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