Egypt says reports it spied on Cop27 delegates are 'ludicrous'

Senior Egyptian official says allegations are distraction from the summit's existential nature

Wael Aboulmagd, special representative of the Cop27 presidency, says he feels some nations were trying to distract for the 'existential' nature of the summit. Reuters
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Reports quoting unnamed German sources that Egypt is spying on delegates at the UN climate summit are “ludicrous”, a senior Egyptian government official said on Monday.

The special envoy of the summit’s Egyptian presidency, Wael Aboulmagd, also said some delegates from developing nations suspect the reports are whipped up as a distraction by rich nations trying to backtrack on their commitments.

Reuters, citing three sources, reported that German federal police had told their nation's delegation at the summit that its members may be subject to spying by Egyptian security agents.

One of the three said German police sent an email warning to delegates of “overt and covert surveillance through photography and videography”.

Comments last week by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about Egypt's human rights record provoked the threat of surveillance, the source said.

“I’ve seen reports in the media,” said Mr Aboulmagd, a veteran diplomat. “They’re rather vague, imprecise and inaccurate.

“Just on the face of it, it seems ludicrous because that's an open event so why would any untoward surveillance exist in an open event when everyone can walk in?” Mr Aboulmagd said at a news conference.

He was referring to an event last week at the German Pavilion when the sister of a jailed Egyptian-British pro-democracy activist, Alaa Abdel Fattah, spoke.

He suggested the issue was being raised to divert attention from the substantive topics being discussed at the climate talks.

“We’re tired of these apparently intentional distractions from climate issues, excessive focus on unfounded allegations,” he said.

“We are facing an existential threat.”

An official with Germany's Foreign Ministry said at the weekend it expected participants in the climate summit to “be able to work and negotiate under secure conditions”.

“To this end, we are in continuous exchange with the Egyptian side.”

Updated: November 14, 2022, 6:24 PM