Egypt: Sisi Joins Arab Leaders in ‘North Thunder’ Drill Military Parade

By Aswat Masriya

Cairo – Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi headed to Saudi Arabia where he and other Arab leaders, including Qatar’s emir, are set to attend a military parade on Thursday to mark the closing of the “North Thunder” drills, state-run news agency MENA reported.

Ground and special forces of at least 20 Arab and Muslim states are taking part in the drills, which began on Feb. 20, MENA added.

Several Arab leaders, including Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah will attend the parade, which will be held in the Saudi city of Hafar al-Batin.

Egyptian military expert Mahmoud Zaher stated that the fact that a large number of Arab leaders are attending the closing ceremony could mean there is a chance for Egypt and Qatar to reach a reconciliation, which could stretch to Turkey as well, the state-run al-Ahram Gate reported.

On Dec. 15, Saudi Arabia announced it launched a Saudi-led Islamic alliance to fight terrorism, made up of 34 countries including Egypt. One day later, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud ordered the increase of Saudi investments in Egypt to above 30 billion Saudi riyals ($8 billion) and pledged to contribute to providing Egypt with petroleum needs for the next five years.

London-based Saudi newspaper al-Hayat quoted Ahmed Asiri, an advisor to Saudi Arabias defense minister, as saying that the “North Thunder” exercises were prompted by the increase of militias in the Arab region.” Asiri also highlighted that the military exercises and the Islamic Coalition are separate and are not to be mixed.

Before the start of the military training, al-Hayat described North Thunder in a headline as a “message by Saudi Arabia and its friends” that they are “prepared.”

Egypt has enjoyed the support of Saudi Arabia, as well as of Gulf neighbours Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, since the military ouster of then-President Mohammed Mursi in July 2013 following mass protests against his rule. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia pledged $4 billion in investments in and assistance for Egypt.

More recently in mid-December, the Saudi king ordered the increase of Saudi investments in Egypt to above $8 billion and pledged to contribute to providing Egypt with petroleum needs for the next five years. His decision came one day after Saudi Arabia launched Saudi-led Islamic alliance to fight terrorism. Egyptian forces have previously conducted joint military training exercises with Saudi forces, most notably the Morgan 14 naval exercise and the Tabuk 3 ground forces exercises.

Source: All Africa