Egypt dodges diplomatic flak over 'Sisi tapes'

Despite months of embarrassment for Egypt over a series of alleged leaks of sensitive remarks including about Gulf allies, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appears to have avoided a major diplomatic furore.

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 09, 2015, 00:59 AM IST

Cairo: Despite months of embarrassment for Egypt over a series of alleged leaks of sensitive remarks including about Gulf allies, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appears to have avoided a major diplomatic furore.

The tapes, aired by Islamist television channels, purportedly revealed conversations which followed the military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 when Sisi was army chief.

The recordings, which have not been authenticated, touch on issues ranging from Morsi's ouster to development funds that Cairo needs from Gulf allies.

Sisi, who toppled Morsi and was elected in May to succeed him, has overseen a brutal police crackdown against supporters of his predecessor that has left hundreds dead.

The television channels that broadcast the audiotapes have links to Morsi's blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

In the latest recording aired on March 1, two aides of Sisi purportedly discuss how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gave Egypt's defence ministry funds for the anti-Morsi protests which led to his ouster.

In another tape released last month, a man identified as Sisi and an aide discuss how much money Cairo wanted from Gulf countries to help rebuild Egypt.

"We need 10 to be added to the army's account ... We need 10 like them from the UAE, and from Kuwait 10 like them," said the voice purported to be Sisi. "They have money like rice."

"The leaks are embarrassing with regards to the security arrangements of communication at these levels of government," said H A Hellyer, an expert with the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

"The questions people aren't really focusing on is how these leaks managed to get out -- and who exists in such sensitive positions of the state that would be willing to release them?"

Sisi has dismissed the tapes as "information war," saying that "anyone could do what he wanted thanks to technology," suggesting the tapes were fabricated by Morsi supporters to embarrass his regime.

In an attempt to repair the diplomatic damage, he spoke on telephone to Gulf leaders and also appeared on national television in late February to declare: "Our brothers in the Gulf should know that we respect and love them."

In his telephone talks with Gulf leaders, Sisi discussed Egypt-Gulf relations, and Saudi King Salman even assured him of Riyadh's "unchangeable" support for Cairo.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait are the main financial backers of Sisi's government, having pledged around USD 12 billion to Cairo since he came to power.