His Excellency Tarek Kabil,

Minister of Industry, Foreign Trade and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises

Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1 I am delighted to be with you this evening to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Singapore. During my visit here, I have had stimulating discussions with my counterparts, and also enjoyed taking in the sights of the historic city of Cairo.

2 Egypt, which is commonly referred to as the Mother of the World, will always be a special friend to Singapore. In 1965, when Singapore became independent, many dismissed our chances of survival because we had no natural resources. Egypt stood alongside us, recognized our independence, and was the first Arab country to establish diplomatic ties with Singapore in 1966. Egypt also played an instrumental role in helping Singapore secure membership in the Non-Aligned Movement. Our bilateral relationship was nurtured by the friendship between our leaders, especially between our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew and President Gamal Abdel Nasser. They were giants of their time. Since those early days, our relations have remained warm. The State Visit of His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to Singapore in September 2015 has opened a new chapter in our relations.

3 Even before Singapore's independence, our two nations were linked by the sea. I've had the privilege of serving as a naval officer in Singapore Navy for two decades and I fully appreciate this. The Suez Canal is the shortest maritime route between Asia and Europe. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 buttressed Singapore's position as a maritime hub. I congratulate the Egyptian government and its people on the tremendous achievement of expanding the Suez Canal in just one year and raising over US$ 8 billion in just 8 days to fund this project. Egypt is now moving into the second phase of the Suez Canal's development. The economic zones around the canal have the potential to transform Egypt's economy and put Egypt on the global map. Singapore stands ready to partner Egypt in its growth and development, drawing upon areas of developmental experience which we can share where relevant. Following President Al Sisi's visit to Singapore, both sides have agreed to explore cooperation in port development and water resource management. Just before the reception, His Excellency Tarek and I had the privilege of witnessing the award of a tender for a desalination and power plant in Ain Sokhna to a Singaporean company.

4 Our bilateral relations are underpinned by strong people-to-people ties. Over the years, thousands of Singaporeans have studied in the prestigious Al Azhar University, including many of our local asatizah and senior religious officials. They act as bridges between our two countries. As multicultural and pluralistic countries, Egypt and Singapore share a common interest in ensuring the peaceful co-existence of different faiths in our respective societies, and in the world. Egyptian religious leaders such as former Grand Imam of Al Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, current Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Allam, former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa and Anglican Bishop of Egypt Mouneer Hanna Anis, have all visited Singapore to exchange perspectives and learn from each other's experiences. I had a very interesting discussion with both the former Grand Mufti and the Anglican Bishop when they visited Singapore together, and am impressed by the work that they have done together to promote inter-religious harmony. We hope to continue such exchanges, and work together for religious harmony all over the world. Our countries also share a common interest in tackling the global challenge of violent extremism. Singapore fully supports Egypt and Al Azhar's active role in correcting the misuse and misinterpretations of religion and spreading the message of moderation and tolerance.

5 Ladies and Gentlemen, Singapore celebrated five decades of independence last year, and we are deeply grateful for the support of good friends such as Egypt over the decades. Egypt is a great civilisation with a long history, as well as resilient, optimistic people working towards their goals and aspirations. Singapore will be happy to build new partnerships with Egypt. We wish Egypt and Egyptian people all the best as it embarks on its future development.

6 Thank you to all our friends for being here tonight to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and Egypt. Your presence is a celebration of our warm bilateral friendship over the past five decades. I look forward to meeting many of you this evening. Thank you.

Source: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS