Wednesday’s papers: Morsy in China, migrants and Operation Eagle

Wednesday’s newspapers center their coverage on three new developments. Topping the news is President Mohamed Morsy’s visit to China for bilateral talks on cooperation between the two countries — from which he reportedly came out with tens of millions worth in grants, and hundreds of millions more in terms of pledged loans, along with several new trade agreements.

Also making headlines is the news of 33 Egyptians being rescued at sea, and the recovery of three corpses, after an attempt to illegally migrate to Libya — an episode adding to the increasingly chilly diplomatic relations between Tripoli and Cairo. The three-week-long "Operation Eagle," targeting armed militants in the Sinai Peninsula has reportedly moved into a new stage – involving negotiations with Bedouin clans, chieftains and leading tribesmen. Morsy is striving to allay Israel’s fears regarding the unrest along the Egypt-Gaza-Israel borders.

On a three day visit to China, Morsy met with his counterpart Hu Jintao in Beijing on Tuesday for bilateral talks regarding increased Chinese investment in Egypt. Morsy is reported to have come out of these talks with several agreements for joint projects, monetary pledges for infrastructure projects, a grant of 450 million Yuan (US$70 million dollars) and pledges for future loans amounting to some $200 million.

Newspapers have issued somewhat conflicting reports regarding the number and nature of Sino-Egyptian projects. The independent Al-Watan reports, “Fruits of Morsy’s visit to China: Loan worth $200 million, a grant and eight agreements.” The independent Al-Youm Al-Sabea runs a headline reading “President signs seven agreements with his Chinese counterpart.”

These seven — or eight — project agreements include: the planned construction of a large electricity station, a water desalination plant, internet and telecommunications projects, the construction of large-scale bakeries, and a high-speed train line between Cairo and Alexandria, amongst other investment works.

The state-owned Al-Akhbar trumpets Morsy’s visit to Beijing as being a historic landmark and “The first Egyptian-Chinese summit since the 25 January revolution.” Al-Akhbar also mentions that the two heads-of-state are “keen on improving and increasing cooperation between China and Egypt.”

In other news, the three-week long military offensive known as “Operation Eagle” targeting armed Islamist elements in the Sinai Peninsula has entered a new stage — one of diplomacy and negotiations with Bedouin tribes, clans, elders, chieftains, and sheikhs.

While Israeli media claimed that Egypt had called of “Operation Eagle,” Egyptian security officials have denied these claims, confirming that the operation — targeting armed militants and smuggling tunnels between Sinai and the Gaza Strip — is ongoing.

The independent Al-Shorouk mentions that “Over the past 20 days, Operation Eagle has resulted in the killing of five militants, arrest of four others, and uncovering of weapon arsenals and caches of explosives,” in addition to the “wounding of three officers and two soldiers.” This in response to the armed attack against Egyptian troops on 5 August — which led to the deaths of 16 soldiers, and six armed assailants who reportedly attempted to infiltrate into Israel.

Egyptian air forces have reportedly pounded suspected locations across North Sinai in the past three weeks, destroying 120 smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and destroying or confiscating numerous weapon caches.

Although Israeli officials have allegedly been worried about the troop build-up in Sinai associated with “Operation Eagle,” the Egyptian president has sought to allay their fears. In the liberal opposition Al-Wafd Newspaper: “Morsy reassures Israel in his interview with Reuters: No need to worry about the armed operations in Sinai.” The liberal paper mentions that operations and skirmishes are still taking place in the North Sinai Towns of Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah, amongst others.

Al-Akhbar mentions that security officials are currently moving towards a diplomatic effort, away from military operations, by which to resolve this armed conflict in Sinai. The state-owned paper praises the state’s efforts yet raises questions regarding the lack of development and employment opportunities in this peninsula. In one headline the paper asks “When will there be a genuine plan for the development of Sinai?” The paper also mentions that local tribes have been calling on Morsy to drop criminal charges — which they claim are trumped-up — against their tribesmen.

In the independent Al-Tahrir: “Sinai tribesmen criticize Morsy for his release of 16 heavy-arms smugglers.” These tribesmen argue that these smugglers were convicted of crimes in 2011, only to be released in 2012. Al-Tahrir cites an unnamed "security official" who claims that “the amnesty came directly from the presidency to the Prison Authority.”

In other news, Al-Tahrir quotes the Muslim Brotherhood‘s Deputy Guide and chief financier Khairat el-Shater as saying, “There is no ‘NahdaProject.’” The Nahda or Renaissance Project was said to be President Morsy’s national plan for Egypt’s social, political, and economic rebirth. Morsy’s presidential campaigning focused around this so-called comprehensive "Renaissance Plan." According to this article, Shater said, “We have no clear, defined, or final program.”

Also making news is the rescue of 33 illegal Egyptian migrants at sea on their way to Libya after the boat they were travelling in sunk. Three bodies (including one Sudanese) have reportedly been discovered in the Mediterranean waters off the coast of Eastern Libya, while four more bodies remain unaccounted for.  Two of the bodies were returned to their family members in Egypt, while the 33 survivors are being detained in Benghazi by Libyan security officials. This incident comes amidst growing Libyan-Egyptian diplomatic tensions.

In Al-Watan: “Diplomatic crisis between Egypt and Libya due to attacks on Egyptians.” The article mentions that 11 Egyptians working in the Libyan Town of Abu Salim were recently assaulted and injured by militias, while 200 others were abducted by revolutionary armed groups and later released.

Finally, Al-Youm Al-Sabea runs a front-page headline claiming that the US is planning to divide Egypt into five mini-states within three decades. The article provides a map detailing these new mini-Egyptian-states according to the alleged US conspiracy – to be realized by the year 2043.

Egypt is allegedly to be divided into a Coptic State, an Islamic State, a Nubian State, a state under Jewish Influence, and a state affiliated to Israeli — all within 30 years. This map and conspiracy was reportedly brought to light by the Coptic Christian √©migr√© community in the US, who are alleged to be involved in this conspiracy. However, according to Al-Youm Al-Sabea, “Leading clergymen from the Coptic Church have denounced these attempts, and all others, aiming at dividing Egypt’s people and its territorial unity and integrity.”

Egypt’s papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhurriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Watan: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Youm7: Daily, privately owned

Al-Tahrir: Daily, privately owned

Freedom and Justice: Daily, published by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Nasserist Party

Al-Nour: Official paper of the Salafi Nour Party

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