A group of Egyptian public figures, including government opponents, met with French President Francois Hollande in Cairo on Monday, and reportedly raised questions about whether French economic and military support for the country comes at the expense of a focus on the human rights situation.
The meeting, which took place at the French ambassador’s residence in Cairo, was attended by leftist lawyer Khaled Ali, media figure Gameela Ismail – both former presidential candidates -- political analyst Abdallah El-Sennawy, parliamentarian Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, economist and former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din, and the dean of Cairo University’s economy department, Hala El-Saed.
Gameela Ismail said on her Facebook page that she asked Hollande “why the Rafale [fighter jet] and warship [deals] took the focus away from real interest in freedoms at the time when tens of thousands are jailed.”
Ismail said Hollande told her that “we don’t bargain or give up on our values, and we succeeded in our goal of the visit, which is to discuss human rights and freedoms in every meeting we had.”
He added that the deals France signed with Egypt have no other role than supporting Egypt, Ismail stated.
Rights lawyer Khaled Ali told Hollande that he carried a message from a number of Egyptian youth who “accuse not only France but the majority of European countries of adopting double standards.”
The youth say, according to Ali, that European countries “talk only about rights and freedoms but in reality, investment and weapons deals make them turn a blind eye to everything.”
Hollande, according to Ali, said he “talked a lot during his visit to Egypt about the necessity of protecting human rights, and that the war on terrorism should not be at the expense of these rights.”
“There is a need to develop security institutions and the justice system, and there is no country in the world where its people don’t accuse the security apparatus,” Ali quoted Hollande as saying.
Economist Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a former deputy prime minister who resigned in January 2014, said on his Facebook page that Hollande had expressed his wish to increase cooperation with Egypt in the areas of economy, culture and education.
“I left this meeting with the impression that the entire world wants to help Egypt, but that Egypt is the one that doesn’t want to help itself,” Bahaa El-Din added.
Hollande left Egypt on Tuesday after a three-day visit that witnessed the signing of at least 18 financial deals worth more than 1.5 billion euros, as well as memorandums of understandings in the fields of transport, energy, renewable energy, gas and tourism.
The French president also discussed regional affairs with his Egyptian counterpart President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and met with parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Al.