Egypt’s El-Sisi discussed on Thursday the recent tension between the Islamic world and Europe with the President of European Council Charles Michel in Cairo where they also discussed the subsequent terrorist incidents in a number of European countries, the Egyptian presidency said.
The situation has been on edge ever since the recent cartoon re-publications of Prophet Muhammad, sparking protests in some Muslim-majority countries as well as calls from several terror groups for their followers to take revenge.
France has seen a deadly assault on church goers in the Mediterranean city of Nice and the beheading of a school teacher near Paris while Vienna witnessed a series of shootings last week that left at least four dead and dozens injured.
According to the presidency statement, El-Sisi told Michel, who is currently visiting Cairo, that religious values have nothing to do with acts of extremism, rejecting the stigmatization of any religion with terrorism.
He also spoke in the meeting about the importance of differentiating between the values of Islam, which calls for the spread of peace and acceptance of one another, and those who hide behind religion to justify extremism and terrorism.
“El-Sisi affirmed the necessity of realising the specificity and culture of religions and their divine principles and values. That requires a deep understanding in dealing with it as well as acceptance and respect and not to harm feelings by offending religious symbols and sacred beliefs,” the statement read.
El-Sisi added that the matter requires international effort to establish the values of accepting others, coexistence and tolerance to build bridges of understanding and brotherhood, referring at the same time to the broad Egyptian experience in consolidating those values and principles of moderation and rejecting fanaticism and violence.
For his part, Michel affirmed the European Union’s keenness to enhance cooperation and consultation with Egypt in all fields, especially combating extremist ideologies on regional and international levels, given that Egypt is a beacon of moderate Islam and has a real political will.
Michel also hinted out - according to the Egyptian presidency - to the efforts of El-Sisi in establishing values of coexistence, freedom of worship, respect for others, and the achievement of rapprochement as well as the understanding between members of all religions.
The Egyptian Presidency stated that both sides agreed on the importance of establishing a '"Forum for dialogue", that brings together several parties from Muslim and European countries, with the participation of religious institutions from both sides, with the aim of countering hate speech and extremism, consolidating the foundations of tolerance and peaceful coexistence as well as spreading the language of mutual dialogue and respect.
The meeting also witnessed an exchange of views and discussions on various issues including the various aspects of relations between Egypt and the EU especially in trade and economic aspects as well as joint coordination on various important international and regional issues.
Among the regional issues, El-Sisi and Michel discussed the recent developments in Libya and the importance of using the latest momentum to reach a comprehensive political settlement in accordance to the outcomes of the Berlin Conference and the Cairo declaration to maintain the ceasefire, stop foreign interference, and prevent the transfer of mercenaries to Libyan territories.
El-Sisi also shared with the EU official Egypt's vision on the overall developments of regional files, especially the situation in the eastern Mediterranean region, stressing the importance of bolstering international efforts to stop any activities and unilateral measures that contradict the rules of international law or violate Security Council resolutions related to combating terrorism.
The developments of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam “GERD” issue was also discussed during the meeting, the Egyptian Presidency statement read.
The situations in Syria, Iraq and Yemen were all also discussed where both El-Sisi and Michel agreed to adhere to a comprehensive political settlement to deal with these issues in a manner that preserves national institutions, preserves the sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as to limit illegal foreign interference in an effort to restore stability, security and achieve a better future for all people.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Head of the EU delegation in Cairo, Ambassador Christian Berger and Senior advisor for foreign affairs in the EU all attended the meeting.