Macron rejects calls to get robust with Egypt’s el-Sisi on rights | Europe

France will not condition arms sales to Egypt based on human rights concerns, French President Emmanuel Macron said after meeting his Egyptian counterpart in Paris on Monday.

Macron said at a joint press conference with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi that he had raised the issue of human rights during their discussions and had remained “a constant advocate of democratic and social openness”.

However, he ruled out conditioning France’s deepened defense and trade ties with Egypt in terms of rights.

“I will not make our defense and economic cooperation dependent on it [human rights] Disagreements, ”he said. “I think it is more effective to have a policy of dialogue than a policy of boycott, which would reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism and for regional stability.”

Amnesty International’s Egyptian and Libyan researcher Hussein Baoumi accused Macron of failing to bring El-Sisi to justice.

“Macron’s message sends a very dangerous message to Egypt as it basically repeats that actual cooperation between the two countries will not be affected by the human rights situation in Egypt,” Baoumi told Al Jazeera from the Tunisian capital, Tunis.

“It is also a very dangerous message because, from the point of view of the Egyptian government, ‘counterterrorism’ means the arrest of peaceful human rights defenders, the arrest of peaceful protesters, submission to very dire conditions, enforcement of disappearances and torture to extract confessions. “

Activists had urged Macron to urge el-Sisi to deal with human rights, but the French leader claimed he did not want to weaken Cairo’s ability to counter armed groups in the region amid concerns over Libya, internal security and instability in the Sahel.

France considers its partnership with Egypt to be crucial in containing armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya.

Macron hosted el-Sisi, whom he referred to as his “friend”, for talks on the second day of the Egyptian’s three-day state visit to France.

Dozens of political prisoners are on death row in Egypt and thousands are said to be detained.

Prior to the El-Sisi visit, more than a dozen human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, called on Macron to end his “unconditional support for the Egyptian government”.

French officials rejected the criticism, saying the government’s policy was to avoid making public statements about the rights of other countries and instead expressing concerns privately.

El-Sisi has vividly monitored the greatest crackdown on civil society in Egypt, imprisoning thousands of democracy activists, reversing the freedoms won in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, silencing critics and establishing draconian rules for rights groups.

Arms supplier

France was the main arms supplier to Egypt between 2013 and 2017.

Those contracts have dried up, including offers for more Rafale fighter jets and warships that were at an advanced stage.

Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said El-Sisi’s visit to France was aimed at reviving Egyptian-French relations.

“Macron said that human rights are extremely important and that Egypt, as a democracy, should respect civil liberties and have a strong civil society,” Butler said, “but that Egypt remained a very important partner for France on many other issues, including what they call.” Counter-terrorism in the region. “

She added that activists were very concerned about the so-called red carpet treatment that el-Sisi was enjoying “because they say … the strategic partnership between Paris and Cairo is a betrayal of French values ​​because Egypt’s human rights record is so poor is. “

France and Egypt cultivated closer economic and military ties during the rise of el-Sisi. The 66-year-old president took office after leading the military overthrow of the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

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