On the first day of his trip to Egypt, French President Emmanuel Macron says that the human rights situation is perceived as tougher than under Mubarak, and that it threatens the country’s stability, Reuters reports.
“I think current policies are perceived by intellectuals and Egypt’s civil society as tougher than under the Mubarak regime,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a trip to Egypt.
“I can’t see how you can pretend to ensure long-term stability in this country, which was at the heart of the Arab Spring and showed its taste for freedom, and think you can continue to harden beyond what’s acceptable or justified for security reasons,” Macron added.
“I think that’s becoming paradoxical and harmful for Egypt itself.”
However, at the same time, Macron insisted that it was necessary to maintain bilateral relations with Egypt, and that he’ll seek a “balance” by raising the subject of human rights while not cutting off dialogue.
“Turning our backs on Egypt over these issues would just push it towards Russia, which is just waiting for that to happen,” he said.
Macron faces pressure at home from rights activists and non-governmental organizations to be firm with the Egyptian president, as he refused to lecture him on civil liberties the last time the two presidents met in 2017.
“I believe in the sovereignty of states. So in the same way that I do not accept other leaders giving me lessons on how to govern my country, I don’t lecture others,” Macron reportedly said at a news conference in 2017.
Though a presidential advisor in Elysee told Reuters that there has been an ‘evolution’ in Macron’s thinking, and that the French president will raise subjects of human rights to the Egyptian president.
“The president’s approach in October 2017 was maybe a bit different … but time has passed,” a presidential adviser said.
President Sisi told journalists in 2017 that Egyptian forces do not carry out torture, and that human rights must be contextualized, as “we are not in Europe, with its intellectual, cultural, civilization and human advancement. We’re in a different region.”
After visiting the Abu Simbel Temple in Aswan, the French president will meet Sisi on Monday to hold direct talks and sign various accords.