Following a lavish welcome Sunday night in Paris, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday. On the agenda of the highly anticipated encounter by many in the international community; major regional crises – and the state of human rights affairs. Complex for France to navigate after prospering for years off sales of 24 Rafale fighter planes to the North African country. Emmanuel Macron said a mouthful in his public address, “I will not make our cooperation in defence or economic matters conditional on these disagreements. Firstly because I believe in the sovereignty of peoples and respect for our legitimate and reciprocal interests. Secondly, because I believe that it is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott policy that would reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism and for regional stability. So my answer is, frankly put: I think that such conditioning would not advance the issues we are dealing with for a single second, because it would halt discussions on these issues and would instead weaken one of our partners in the fight against terrorism and for stability in the region.”
Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference at the Élysée presidential palace, Macron said it was more “effective” to focus on dialogue between the two countries.
Prejudice and Bias in Western Journalism Three leaders of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights were released just before the arrival of Sissi — often described as a dictator in the West, after a strong international mobilisation. The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi expressed his truth about the biases in the Western media regarding political leaders of African and Arab descent, “You (the media) focus on this issue and you depict us as having no respect for people, as if we don’t like our society, or as if we are violent leaders, despots. And this is unacceptable”
“I will not condition matters of defence and economic cooperation on these disagreements [over human rights],” said Macron. “It is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott which would only reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism,” he added.
Macron however said he had discussed a number of human rights cases with his Egyptian counterpart, including the case of Palestinian-Egyptian activist Ramy Shaath, husband of French national Celine Lebrun, who was arrested in July 2019 on accusations of acting against the state.
France welcomed Sisi with a Cavalry parade through Paris.France views Egypt and its leader as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya.
Egypt has concluded several arms deals with France since 2015, including the purchase of two French-made Mistral-class helicopter carriers and two dozen Rafale advanced fighter jets.
But Egypt’s human rights record has dominated the headlines during the state visit with rights organizations accusing Macron’s administration of turning a blind eye to what they say are Sisi’s government’s increasing violations of freedoms.
France: NGOs critical of Egyptian president’s visit
Int’l community objects to Macron meeting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Elysee, citing plethora of human rights violations
Several NGOs are objecting to a three-day state visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to France on Monday.
Around 20 organizations are setting a demonstration in front of the National Assembly for Tuesday evening.
The Egyptian leader will also meet with President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. Tuesday, he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe as well as meet with Prime Minister Jean Castex and Senate President Gerard Larcher.
The International Federation of Human Rights has taken the lead in criticizing the meeting. Antoine Madelin, an official with the body, cited continued human rights violations, especially when Macron has already acknowledged flaws in Egypt’s handling of such.
“We are amazed that France is rolling out the red carpet for a dictator when there are more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience today in Egypt,” Madelin expressed. The organization and others have called for the release of those being unfairly detained.
The backstory of Jan. 27, 2019 bears this out when Macron made much-publicized comments regarding the imprisonment of “bloggers, journalists, and activists” and that Egypt was not evolving “in the right direction.” The French leader plans to revisit the matter in his talks with the Egyptian head of state.
One factor in France’s favor and possible leverage: the sale in 2017 of €1.4 billion (over $1.7 billion) worth of arms to Egypt, which eclipsed the US as the largest arms dealer to the country.
The release on Dec. 3 of three leaders of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a human rights organization, could also prove an asset for France. Their arrest in November caused an uproar in the Republic as well as other territories.
The international community is critical of Cairo’s restrictions on freedom and its detention of opposition figures.
There has been growing criticism of Egypt’s human rights record under al-Sisi, who came to power in 2013 after toppling the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in a military coup.