France's Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R), mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, give a joint press conference after their meeting at Tahrir Palace in the centre of the capital Cairo on November 8, 2020. AFP
During a visit in Cairo, the French FM stressed his country’s “deep respect” for Islam, following comments that were recently made by the French president that sparked controversy in much of the Muslim world.
In a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian affirmed his country’s respect for the religion of Islam.
The FM added that France’s respect for Islam will also be conveyed during an upcoming meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb.
Le Drian said that Muslims in France are part of French history and identity.
The French FM’s visit comes following an uproar and condemnation of comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron on Islam, as well as calls to boycott French products after Macron defended people’s right to make images of the Prophet Muhammad, something which is forbidden in Islam.
In October, a suspected Islamist decapitated a French teacher for showing during his class cartoons of the Prophet that were made by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack was strongly condemned by Egypt, Al-Azhar, and Muslims worldwide.
The Egyptian foreign minister said that the recent terrorist acts in France aim to destabilise and accomplish political goals, stressing that such attacks have no ties to Islam as a religion.
The talks between the two ministers, which saw Le Drian visiting Cairo for the 19th time since assuming senior posts in 2012, also tackled the crises in Palestine, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Shoukry said that Egypt’s position has remained unwavering since the start of the crisis in Libya, highlighting the importance of a Libyan-Libyan resolution to the crisis.
Shoukry said that Egypt is continuing to coordinate with France to meet the interests of the Libyan people, adding that Cairo’s action of designating red lines in Sirte and Al-Jufra in Libya has led to a de-escalation of fighting in the country.
Le Drian said there is no military solution for the crisis in Libya.
The two foreign ministers were also asked about the election of Joe Biden as the new US president.
Shoukry said that Egypt enjoys “strategic relations” with the US that extend back four decades, signalling that there is no conflict over the election of Biden over Donald Trump, who had further advanced relations between Cairo and Washington over vital issues during his tenure despite criticism by some people of Cairo’s human rights practices.
Shoukry said that the US is a strategic partner for Egypt, and that their relations cover all issues and regional challenges and that such relations will continue.
The FM said that Egypt has dealt with various US administrations, whether Democrat or Republication, on the basis of mutual respect, stressing that these relations will continue in order to bolster economic growth and resolve crises in the Middle East.
On Biden’s election, the French foreign minister said his country will coordinate with the new US administration on international issues and combating terrorism.