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Macron hosts close ally Egypt's al-Sisi

Activists had expressed unease over Sisi's visits, saying France should be doing more to raise concern about the political prisoners
— Paris (AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday met Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Paris for their latest talks aimed at tightening a relationship based on security and defence ties that has troubled activists.

Macron hosted the Egyptian strongman at the Elysee Palace days after hosting UAE leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, himself a close ally of Sisi's secular administration.

With growing concern over the effects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on global food supplies, the pair discussed ways to deal with the "economic, energy and global food security consequences of this conflict", the Elysee said in a statement.

Egypt is due to host the COP 27 climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh in November and Macron and Sisi also discussed the fight against global warming.

"The two presidents took stock of the main issues of bilateral cooperation, which are very dense in all areas," it added.

Last year, Egypt's military ordered 30 more Rafale jets from French defence firm Dassault Aviation in a multi-billion-dollar defence deal confirmed by France.

Macron has during his rule placed considerable emphasis on relations with Egypt and during a state visit in December 2020 gave Sisi France's highest award, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, in a move that left rights activists aghast.

Activists have long expressed unease over Sisi's visits, saying that France should be doing more to raise concern about the estimated 60,000 political prisoners languishing in Egyptian prisons.

In a nod to these concerns, the Elysee statement said: "As part of the dialogue of confidence between France and Egypt, they also addressed the issue of human rights."

There has been particular concern over the case of dissident Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 100 days after being sentenced in December to five years in prison.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had ahead of the talks urged Macron not "to ignore the fate of Alaa Abdel Fattah... and of all the detained journalists".

France had secured promises of new energy supplies from the United Arab Emirates on Monday after talks between Macron and Sheikh Mohamed, known as MBZ.

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