President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in a press conference with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a press conference at Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo, Egypt. 28 January 2019. TV Screenshot.
CAIRO - 28 January 2019: In a joint press conference with the French President Emmanuel Macron in Cairo, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said talks covered terrorism, the necessity to achieve sustainable development, and protection of human rights within a comprehensive framework that reflects the comprehension of history.
“The rights to live safely, and enjoy freedom of expression are inseparable and are highly valued by Egypt,” President Sisi said adding, “terrorism, racism, and hate crimes are rising in Europe and the (Middle East) region. However, that should not obstruct us in assuming development.”
“On one hand, the rule of law does not contradict human rights. One the other hand, a civil society can help push development and stability,” Macron said calling for furthering more balance in the Egyptian NGOs law, and stating that he handed his Egyptian counterpart names of arrested individuals who are important to France.
Macron also called to lift the ban on certain websites, and stated that he would meet civil society representatives on Tuesday.
The French president said he knew about the economic efforts assumed, and that he understood the huge challenges Egypt was facing represented in a population of 100 million people and annual births of 2.5 million. He said that required industrial partnerships.
Egyptian Journalist Mohamed al-Baz asked the French president whether his country’s policies have changed because he was raising the topic of human rights in Egypt which contradicts his response to such questions during Sisi’s visit to France in 2017 as he said he would not dictate other heads of states how to rule their countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron in a press conference with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in a press conference at Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo, Egypt. 28 January 2019. TV Screenshot.
“French policies haven’t changed. The people decides its destiny. Since I was elected, France has never dictated any country how to choose. We are eager to see reconciliation achieved and people receiving the rights they are deprived from. We have interests including human rights. In 2017, we appreciated Egypt’s need to achieve stability. Since then, bloggers and intellects were put in prison. Things took a different path. Putting a blogger in jail is detrimental to the image of a country I love. The best minds need discussions and freedoms. The activity of the civil society is vital. I respect the president’s endeavors to achieve stability and development. But, some individual cases do not represent a threat to stability. The president may not share the same views on those cases. I respect the sovereignty of Egypt. I never underestimate Egypt’s challenges. I see huge efforts to establish respect for all creeds and religions,” Macron replied.
The reply of President Sisi to French journalists’ questions on human rights and NGOs in Egypt is below:
“We have a special nature in this region. We are not Europe. Differences are normal. There is nothing like the world can be homogeneous. Trying to do so may not turn to be right. The president talked about the size of the population and freedoms. We are part of a turbulent region. A big project failed and that was establishing a theocratic state. Let’s focus on efforts addressing human rights by the state and not just by Sisi. 250,000 families lived in inhumane conditions in very improper housing. In light of fighting terrorism alone for five years and experiencing economic hardship, we granted them furnished apartments.
We were able to treat just 10,000 patients per year. We treat that number in just one month. We provide expensive treatment to patients on waiting lists suffering from cruel diseases like cancer. Egypt will not be built by bloggers. We are undertaking political, economic, and social reforms. We are working on promoting citizenship and tolerance.
One million graduate every year. How can we create jobs for them? What should I do for 2.5 million born every year? Bloggers are distant from our reality. We lead our country with honesty, honor, and pride.
The state launched the largest program worldwide to treat Hepatitis C patients. 55 million were tested. There are 45,000 NGOs in Egypt and we launched a social dialogue to amend the law. There must be a distinction between opinions and putting the state into ruins.
What would you possibly do if a civil war occurred in Egypt? What would you do for us?
You are doing us injustice by viewing our issues based on your vision. If there is any Egyptian who rejects my presence, I am here because of an Egyptian willpower.”
Macron said that he did not wait for Sisi’s response to the names of individual cases he had put forward.
Responding to a question by an Egyptian journalist on arrests of “Gilets Jaunes” protesters, Macron said, “the protests represented different types of anger. We are eager to preserve the constitutional right to protest. Some were involved in vandalism and violence against policemen. That’s why they were arrested, and not for what they were chanting. Courts will issue verdicts."
"We should not confuse protesters with those. I am sorry that 11 citizens died. One died because of police while the rest died because of human stupidity,” Macron added.
Answering a question by a French journalist on whether French arms were used by security forces to face protests in Egypt, Macron stated, “those were sold in 2010 and 2011. Only once out of 200 incidents, an armored vehicle was used in 2013 and we demanded clarification. Current negotiations (over arms) are for defense purposes and part of the strategic partnership. We delivered 23 out of 24 Rafale fighter jets.”
President Sisi said, “Police do not face protests by arms and force. Protesting is a constitutional right. In 2011, 2012, and part of 2013, chaos was dominant. Arms were used only against terrorist elements. I affirm that no armored vehicles, whether French or not, are used in protests.”
“More than 100 citizens were killed in assaults on churches and more than 300 were killed in an assault on a mosque. The situation in our countries is different. We secure borders stretching over 1,200 kilometers Libya where big numbers of terrorist elements are being assembled,” Sisi concluded.