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The New Arab

Aoun makes first official visit to Egypt since election

Michel Aoun will meet with Egyptian President Sisi and other high level ministers [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2017

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The Lebanon leader continues his regional tour, attempting to shore up the stability of his presidency in the eyes of the world.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun arrived in Cairo on Monday for his first official state visit to Egypt since taking office in October 2016.

Aoun will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and other high level ministers, as part of a regional tour to "cement the international relations of Lebanon’s relatively new government."

Aoun’s visit to Egypt follows his trip to Saudi Arabia last month, where he worked to thaw relations, ease travel restrictions between the countries and encourage tourism investment.

His mission to Cairo will have broadly similar objectives. Though Egypt is not in a position to offer much financial assistance to Lebanon, both economies both rely heavily on tourism and business traffic between the two countries is frequent. However, in February 2015 Egyptian authorities imposed heightened security measures on men between 18 and 40 years wishing to travel to a number of countries, including Lebanon.

Egypt as the choice for Aoun’s second official state visit demonstrates the remaining regional significance of the Middle East’s most populated country, as well as the close bonds that have formed between Egypt and Saudi Arabia under Sisi’s presidency.  

The two presidents will doubtless discuss shared security concerns, such as the continuing crisis in Syria and the conflict in Sinai, but economic matters are high in the agenda.

Lebanon needs to find new sources of growth quickly – after growth rates plummeted in 2011 – and Egypt faces a similar problem.

If tourism remains limited, especially from outside the region, other avenues must be explored. Both countries are ramping up oil and gas exploration, attempting to impose reams of legislation reform to make doing business easier and hoping to entice their citizens abroad to bring their money home. 

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