French President Macron presses Egypt on upholding human rights

0
424
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron listen to national anthems during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace Cairo, Egypt, January 28, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that stability and security cannot be separated from human rights, during talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron listen to national anthems during a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace Cairo, Egypt, January 28, 2019

The French leader was speaking at a joint news conference on the second of his three-day visit to the North African country.

“Stability and durable peace go together with respect for individual dignity and the rule of law, and the search for stability cannot be dissociated from the question of human rights,”Macron said.

“I wouldn’t be an honest friend with today’s Egypt if I didn’t share what I think while still being fully aware of all the differences, of everything that makes Egypt today and of all its challenges. I don’t underestimate anything regarding the security challenges that President Sisi is facing,” he added.

Sisi meanwhile told reporters that rights should be taken in the context of regional turbulence and the fight against terrorism.

Sisi said Egypt was not ”like Europe, nor the United States,” and that the North African country had its own way of doing things.

“We are a country or a region that has its own specifics and its own nature, with which it is made distinct and exceptional… No country can abide by one single pathway and say it is the better and perfect pathway. We cannot say that. But we can say that human difference is a normal thing which will continue. I believe that trying to change it to one single pathway might not be a good thing,” he stressed.

The current Egyptian leader ousted former President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 and was elected as president a year later, presiding over a crackdown on the opposition that has extended from Islamists to liberal activists.

Sisi and his supporters say the measures are needed to stabilise Egypt after the turmoil that followed the country’s 2011 uprising.

“Do not forget, we are talking about an unstable region, which we are a part of. There is a large project that was supposed to be established in this region, a project that failed in Egypt, namely the project of the establishing a religious state – a religious state with all the meaning those words bear for the region and for the Egyptian people who refused it,” he quipped.

In an interview this month Sisi denied Egypt was holding political prisoners, though one rights group estimates the number at 60,000.

Officials in the bilateral meetings signed a series of economic and development deals, which include French support for social policies and female entrepreneurship, as well as a memorandum of understanding for the expansion of Cairo’s metro.