'Stability goes together with human rights,' Macron tells Sisi

'Stability goes together with human rights,' Macron tells Sisi
France's president has urged his Egyptian counterpart to show respect for human rights during a meeting in Cairo on Monday.
2 min read
28 January, 2019
French President Emmanuel Macron [L] arrived in Egypt on Sunday [AFP]

French President Emmanuel Macron said he encouraged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - who has led an unprecedented crackdown on dissent - to respect human rights when he met him in Cairo on Monday.

Macron, heading a large delegation on a three-day trip to Egypt, said ahead of the talks that he wanted to "pursue a truthful dialogue on topics of public freedoms and human rights".

"Real stability depends on the vitality of society," Macron said at a joint press conference with Sisi.

"Stability and lasting peace go hand in hand with respect for individual freedoms, dignity of everyone and the rule of law."

France, which considers itself the birthplace of human rights, has come under pressure from activists to raise the matter with Sisi, who led the military overthrow of Egypt's first democratically-elected president in 2013.

Since then, authorities have jailed thousands of people, including politicians, activists, journalists and many of those behind the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak. 

Macron said that too many ordinary people "who do not threaten the regime's stability" have been jailed.

"It is on this area of what is happening in Egypt that I will continue to focus things. I will do it more openly during this trip," Macron told reporters late on Sunday.

He added that better treatment of political opponents was in the interest of Egypt and its government.

Macron said he felt the current crackdown had become worse than those led by Mubarak.

"What is happening here sooner or later threatens the stability of Egypt," Macron said.

"The policies as they are being done are perceived by intellectuals, the Egyptian civil society, as being even stronger than (under) the Mubarak regime."

Macron said he would "have a confidential dialogue" with his Egyptian counterpart on "individual cases" of imprisoned opponents.

Activists and NGOs have urged Frace to halt arms sales to Egypt over its human rights record, however, Macron has dismissed using such pressure. 

Asked specifically if human rights issues could affect specific arms sales, such as one under discussion for additional Rafale advanced fighter jets to Egypt, Macron said such matters were unrelated.

"I would differentiate between the two subjects, they are not linked for us and they never were."

Macron will also dine with local business leaders and meet the heads of Egypt's Christian and Muslim communities during the trip, his first to Egypt since taking office in 2017.