Biden and El Sisi talk human rights before US president addresses Cop27

Joe Biden is expected to highlight his administration’s pledge to spend $375 billion over a decade to fight climate change.

US President Joe Biden meets Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Reuters
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US President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi discussed human rights and climate change at the Cop27 summit as they met in Sharm El Sheikh on Friday.

Sitting beside Mr Biden, the Egyptian president addressed reporters directly on the matter of human rights, which has been raised by activists and rights groups in the run-up to and during the Cop27 summit.

“Allow me to say to you that we are taking a comprehensive approach [to human rights] and we pay attention to that subject and we try and develop ourselves,” he said in Arabic.

He said his government has adopted a strategy for human rights in Egypt and called for a national dialogue to chart the country's political future. A presidential committee given the task of reviewing the cases of government critics held in pre-trial detention has been activated, he added.

“I want to reassure you that Egypt is in good shape,” he said.

Mr Biden said he intended to discuss human rights with the Egyptian leader.

“I look forward to our discussion,” he said. The two leaders will also discuss bilateral ties, he added.

The US leader arrived in the Red Sea resort city on Friday to attend the Cop27 global climate summit before he departs for the US-Asean summit in Cambodia and the G20 Summit in Indonesia.

Before the meeting, Mr Biden said the pair would discuss “our strong defence partnership, to pursuing a more integrated Middle East and continuing our dialogue on human rights.”

He thanked Mr El Sisi for speaking out strongly on the war in Ukraine and said Cairo had been a key mediator in the Gaza Strip between the militant Palestinian group Hamas and Israel.

“In the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Egypt has spoken up strongly in the United Nations and that is appreciated very much as well,” Mr Biden said.

The US president's visit comes as pressure grows on Egypt to free prominent British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah who this week stopped taking liquids after seven months of a partial hunger strike. His family says he could die but authorities late on Thursday night said he was in good health and cast doubt that he was on a hunger strike.

The leaders of Germany, Britain and France raised the case of Abdel Fattah when they met the Egyptian leader in Sharm El Sheikh earlier this week, asking for his release. Their request has unleashed a storm by the pro-government media in Egypt, with many talk show hosts branding it as meddling in a domestic Egyptian affair.

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Updated: May 31, 2023, 9:01 AM