French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Elysee presidential Palace on December 7, 2020 in Paris. AFP
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said more cooperation with France is required to promote tolerance, moderation, and acceptance of others, as he spoke in a state banquet on Monday hosted by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.
“There is no doubt that the huge challenges the world is currently witnessing, foremost of which are the phenomena of violence, extremism, hatred of others, intolerance, racism and contempt of religions, impose a huge responsibility for cooperation,” El-Sisi said.
The Egyptian president added that cooperation is needed to “counter these negative phenomena and [activate] joint work to enhance the values of tolerance, moderation and acceptance of the other, which are values we desperately need to spread and deepen in the world now more than ever."
President El-Sisi is on an official visit to France, where he held meetings with President Macron, the French defence and foreign ministers, and the mayor of Paris to discuss issues of mutual interest and joint cooperation.
The Egyptian president said his visit represents an “important opportunity to exchange viewpoints not only on ways to boost cooperative relations between our two countries, but [also] to coordinate stances towards different regional and international issues of mutual concern”.
“Perhaps the consensus in viewpoints witnessed in my conversations with your Excellency [President Macron] reiterates our political will to strengthen the strategic partnership between Egypt and France, and to build on it and move on to achieve the ambitious aspirations of our two friendly peoples.”
He added that the Egyptian-French strategic partnership reflects a “distinguished and fruitful cooperation path that started decades ago, until it became an institutional effort that we celebrate for its firm foundations.”
“The special relations linking our two countries is translated into ongoing cooperation between various Egyptian and French institutions, foremost of which cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, investment, education, transportation, defense, and security”.
“These fields represent a firm foundation of the strong relations gathering us.”
El-Sisi said France and the French people are special to Egyptians, as both peoples “share together a cultural and civilisational legacy that extends through the ages.”
“The great fondness of the French people for the ancient Egyptian civilization contributed to further deepening the relations of love, friendship, and cooperation and the convergence of common goals, visions, and interests between our two countries, especially since the great French scholar Champollion succeeded in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs about two hundred years ago.”
The president thanked Macron for his “permanent keenness to enhance joint coordination and develop all aspects of cooperation between our two countries,” wishing French people further security and prosperity.
He also thanked Macron for the warm reception in France and hailed official talks between them on Monday morning as “constructive and fruitful,” saying it “clearly reflects the extent of distinction and uniqueness of the bilateral relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the French Republic.”
El-Sisi and Macron appeared in a press conference following their official talks on Monday, saying they discussed regional issues, human rights, counter-terrorism efforts, and cooperation in various fields.
During the press conference, El-Sisi and Macron expressed diverging opinions on how to respond to the controversial offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in French press.
El-Sisi said he believes “religious values” should be considered alongside freedom of expression, affirming that these drawings hurt the feelings of millions of Muslims worldwide.
Macron, however, said he believes the drawings are a form of freedom of expression, which a French president or law cannot ban, stressing that France separates religion from politics.