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Macron says French arms sales to Egypt will not be conditional on human rights

French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a joint press conference in Paris on December 7, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a joint press conference in Paris on December 7, 2020. © France 24 screengrab

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said he would not condition the future sale of French arms to Egypt on human rights because he did not want to weaken Cairo’s ability to counter terrorism in the region. Macron however said he spoke “frankly” to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about human rights during his state visit to France.

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Speaking to reporters at a joint press conference at the Élysée presidential palace, Macron said it was more “effective” to focus on dialogue between the two countries.

"I will not condition matters of defence and economic cooperation on these disagreements [over human rights]," said Macron. "It is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott which would only reduce the effectiveness of one of our partners in the fight against terrorism," he added.

Macron however said he had discussed a number of human rights cases with his Egyptian counterpart, including the case of Palestinian-Egyptian activist Ramy Shaath, husband of French national Celine Lebrun, who was arrested in July 2019 on accusations of acting against the state.

Earlier on Monday, France had welcomed Sisi with a Cavalry parade through Paris.

France views Egypt and its leader as a bulwark against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya.

Egypt has concluded several arms deals with France since 2015, including the purchase of two French-made Mistral-class helicopter carriers and two dozen Rafale advanced fighter jets.

But Egypt’s human rights record has dominated the headlines during the state visit with rights organisations accusing Macron’s administration of turning a blind eye to what they say are Sisi's government's increasing violations of freedoms.

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