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Macron presses Egypt's Sisi on respect for 'freedoms'

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Cairo (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron called for "respect for individual freedoms" as he met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Monday.

Macron, on a three-day visit to Egypt, had vowed to raise human rights concerns with the former army chief while also seeking to boost ties between the two countries.

"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."

Shortly after his arrival in Egypt on Sunday, Macron said he would talk "more openly" with Sisi on human rights.

The French leader had been criticised by rights groups after saying in October 2017 during a visit by Sisi to Paris that he would not "lecture" Egypt on liberties.

But according to Macron, "things have not gone in the right direction since October 2017" and "bloggers, journalists and activists" have been jailed since then.

He underscored that a "vibrant, inclusive and active civil society remains the best defence against extremism and a condition for stability of the country."

Without these conditions, he said, "the image of Egypt may be damaged."

Egyptian authorities have cracked down severely on dissent, especially Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi was overthrown in 2013 by the military -- then led by Sisi -- following mass protests against his rule.

The crackdown later swept up journalists, bloggers as well as secular, liberal and leftist activists.

Sisi said at the news conference that "we are not like Europe and America."

He said it was "fair" to consider the "stability and security" of Egypt's population of 100 million when dealing with matters regarding the country.

"Egypt will not advance through bloggers but Egypt will advance by work, effort and perseverance," he said.

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