Egyptian, French FMs hold press conference on regional issues and bilateral relations in Cairo

Ahram Online , Sunday 29 Apr 2018

France did not request that Egypt send troops to Syria, Egyptian FM Sameh Shoukry said during a presser with his French counterpart Le Drian after holding talks in Cairo

Shoukry, Le Drian
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) speaks during a news conference with his counterpart French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) in Cairo, Egypt April 29, 2018 (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry and his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian held a press conference in Cairo Sunday on regional issues including Syria, Libya and Palestine, as well as political and economic bilateral relations after holding talks.

During the press conference, Shoukry said that Egypt appreciates its strong relationship with France.

"There are solid historical relations between the two countries," Shoukry said, adding that there is mutual interest to develop relations politically, economically, and culturally.

Shoukry added that France has an interest and passion for ancient Egyptian heritage, as well as modern Egypt and its road to the future.

Shoukry explained that he and Le Drian discussed during their meeting the situations in Syria and Libya and the Palestinian issue, as well as the efforts to combat terrorism, adding that there is a "correspondence in viewpoints between the two countries on all issues."

Le Drian said "I am happy to be back here. This is my 10th visit to Egypt as a minister, as I was first a minister of defense and later a foreign minister."

The French FM said he appreciates the clarity in the relationship between his country and Egypt, as well as the mutual trust and conformity of vision regarding different issues.

"This shows that Egypt is a friend and partner country to us, especially amid what the region is facing in terms of conflicts," Le Drian said.

Earlier today, Le Drian met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to discuss bilateral relations and a number of regional issues.

Le Drian highlighted during the presser major issues he discussed with President El-Sisi, which he said included Syria and the importance of consolidating international efforts for a solution to the crisis there.

"We spoke about a political solution which would lead to a roadmap for the Syrian crisis," he said, adding that France supports the territorial integrity of Syria.

Le Drian said that he also discussed with President El-Sisi the crisis in Libya, stressing the importance of abiding with the political roadmap set by UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salama, which stipulates that elections should be held before the end of the year.

He also said that "there is a matching of viewpoints" between Cairo and Paris on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Syria crisis

In an answer to a reporter’s question, Shoukry said that France did not request that Egypt send military forces to Syria, in reference to a circulating US proposal to send a multinational force to the war-stricken country.

On the recent US-Britain-France airstrikes against the government of Bashar Al-Assad, Le Drian said "I have to stress that if France decided to launch a direct and specific strike on targets in Syria linked with chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, that this is a matter of principle to us to object to the proliferation of chemical weapons."

"We have to cooperate with the countries of significant weight to end the Syrian crisis," Le Drian added.

Last week, President El-Sisi expressed to French President Macron his concern about a military escalation in Syria following the western airstrikes.

Egypt has maintained a position of support to the territorial integrity of Syria and the need for a political solution to end the crisis in the country.

A question on the dam

The Egyptian foreign minister was asked by a journalist during the press conference about updates on the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam negotiations.

"Egypt is keen on dealing with the dam issue within the framework of the agreement between the leaders of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia during their meeting on the sidelines of the African summit last January," Shoukry said.

In January, the leaders of the three countries set a one-month deadline from 5 April to 5 May to hold a trilateral technical meeting to end a stand-off in negotiations over the construction of the dam.

Shoukry revealed that Egypt has agreed to recent proposals from Ethiopia to hold the trilateral technical committee meetings on 4 May, with another meeting related to further talks to be held on 15 May.

"Despite our preference that the meetings be held within the timeframe [set in January], we have demonstrated our acceptance of the upcoming dates since Egypt is keen on communication and interaction to reach a point of connection to preserve the interests of the three countries," he said.

Economic cooperation

Le Drian concluded that France will continue to help Egypt in mega projects, as well as projects in the energy field, through supporting French companies operating in the country.

According to the Egyptian foreign ministry, trade between Egypt and France reached 2.5 billion euros by the end of 2017, rising from 2.1 billion euros in 2016.

Egypt is currently the first destination for French exports in the MENA region at 1.9 billion euros.

France occupies the 6th place in the list of foreign investors in Egypt, and the third largest European investor in the Egyptian market with investments worth 4.4 billion Euro.

Egypt is the third largest destination for direct French investments in the MENA region with 140 French companies operating in the country.

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