Sisi and Merkel stress joining efforts in facing terrorism and migrant crisis

Mahmoud Aziz , Thursday 2 Mar 2017

Germany's Chancellor commended Egypt on economic reform program and efforts to reach a political solution to Libyan crisis; Egypt's president stressed commitments to human rights and efforts against terrorism in the region

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt March 2, 2017. (Reuters)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed cooperation between both countries in combating terrorism and irregular migration at their meeting in Cairo on Thursday.

Merkel arrived in Cairo earlier in the day on a two-day visit to meet with President El-Sisi and other Egyptian top officials, her first visit to the country since 2007.

During the meeting, Sisi and Merkel inaugurated via video conference the first phase of a project managed by the German power giant Siemens to build three new power plants in Egypt.

Following their meeting at the presidential palace in Heliopolis, El-Sisi and Merkel held a press conference where both leaders addressed regional developments and a range of issues of mutual interest. 

El-Sisi said that the current turbulent situation in the region is not only a threat to the Middle East but also to Europe and the whole world.

El-Sisi also addressed the country's ongoing efforts to curb illegal immigration, a key concern for European countries facing an increasing migrant crisis.

The president said that Egypt hosts five million immigrants from different nations who live their lives normally, receive the privileges enjoyed by Egyptian citizens and are not confined to refugee camps.

Egypt has recently opposed proposals to build refugee camps to house illegal migrants in the African continent.

Last year, Egypt passed legislation to combat irregular migration to Europe from its shores.

Merkel promised to provide Egypt with $250 million in support for its economic reform program.

The German Chancellor described the reform program as courageous and praised Cairo's commitment to honour the terms of the $12 billion loan extended by the International Monetary Fund to the country. 

On regional matters, El-Sisi stressed that Cairo is dealing with the Syrian crisis in accordance with the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, though he stressed that Egypt would not allow terrorist groups to expand or make gains in the region.

"Egypt supports reaching a political solution, preserving the unity of Syrian lands, combating terrorist groups and the rebuilding of the country," El-Sisi said.

"We must take clear and decisive action against countries that encourage terrorism in the world," he added.

Merkel also criticised countries which she said are involved in supporting terrorism in the region, expressing hope that Egyptian efforts to solve disputes in the region, especially in Libya, would see success.

The German Chancellor also described the Egyptian-Tunisian-Algerian initiative -- which aims at finding a solution to the Libyan conflict -- as important and successful. 

Merkel also called on the Egyptian government to allow for more participation of NGOs in political life in the country.

On the human rights situation in Egypt, President El-Sisi said Cairo balances its commitment to the protection of basic human freedoms with its security needs, stressing that any security measures implemented by the government are in accordance with the country's law and constitution.

"Of course we are keen on preserving human rights in our country, but we must take into consideration what the region is witnessing, and the fact that terrorists are targeting the main elements of the Egyptian state," he said.

"If any European nation had been targeted by terrorist attacks similar to those Egypt has witnessed in recent years,  there would have been a much harsher reaction," El-Sisi said.

"What sort of opposition groups target churches or people based on their religious beliefs?" El-Sisi asked, referring to the recent spate of deadly Islamist militant attacks on the Christian community in North Sinai. 

Egypt and Germany have strengthened economic, military and political ties over the past three years. 

El-Sisi met with the German chancellor in Berlin in May, 2015 during his first official visit to Europe after assuming the Egyptian presidency in 2014.

The German company Siemens signed in 2015 an 8 billion euro ($9.05 billion) deal with Egypt to build gas and wind power plants to ease the country's electric power shortages. 

In 2014, Egypt signed a deal to buy three German submarines.

A submarine built by ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems was delivered to Cairo in 2016. Two more German submarines destined for Egypt are currently under construction. 

In November, the German passenger flights resumed to Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport, putting an end to a one-year ban on flights to the Red Sea resort city after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai in late 2015. 

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