BoJo tours pyramids, urged to address Egypt rights violations
Boris Johnson has toured the pyramids of Giza during his first visit to Egypt as UK foreign minister, as human rights groups urged the Conservative MP to speak out against Cairo's rampant human rights abuses.
Johnson visited the last standing "wonders of the world" on Saturday after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to finalise a $150 million loan guarantee agreement tied to crucial IMF financing for Egypt.
"The UK and Egypt have many shared interests, we are Egypt's top economic partner and strong allies against terrorism and extremist ideas," Johnson said, according to an embassy statement.
"I look forward to continuing to strengthen the close relationship between our two countries," he added.
The UK loan guarantee was part of up to $6 billion pledged in bilateral funding Egypt needed to secure to qualify for a $12 billion IMF loan linked with tough economic reforms.
British Ambassador John Casson tweeted a photo of Johnson's visit to the Pyramids.
|The visit came as Egypt pushes for a resumption
of British flights to Sharm al-Sheikh [Getty]
"British tourist numbers are the second highest among EU countries, and it plans to become first," the ambassador tweeted.
Human right group Reprieve urged Johnson ahead of the visit to pressure Sisi to end abuses such mass death sentences and release Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa, who has been held without trial for almost four years.
"Johnson is visiting Egypt as thousands of people languish in horrific prison conditions, after they were arrested in connection with protests," Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at Reprieve, said.
"Hundreds still face the death penalty in desperately unfair mass trials - including people who were arrested as children, like Ibrahim Halawa."
"The Foreign Office says it is concerned about the human rights situation in Egypt - but ministers continue to offer support to President Sisi's government while Ibrahim's ordeal continues. The foreign secretary must urge Sisi to end these appalling abuses, and free Ibrahim and the many like him," McCulloch added.
Johnson met with right groups during the trip to stress the importance of a "free society and rights", the foreign secretary said on his Twitter account.
In 2013, then-army chief Sisi led a military coup against Egypt's first freely elected leader - the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammad Morsi - amid mass protests against his presidency.
The overthrow unleashed a deadly crackdown on Islamists, while at least 800 peaceful protesters were killed in a single day when police dispersed a Cairo sit-in demanding Morsi's reinstatement.
Egyptian courts have since sentenced hundreds of Islamists to death, including Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
Rights activists accuse Sisi of running an authoritarian regime that has violently suppressed all opposition and committed human rights violations, including forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and illegal detentions.