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Posts tagged ‘Ancient Land of Egypt’

France’s Macron to press Egyptian president on human rights

January 28, 2019

CAIRO (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is to hold talks Monday with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo, saying beforehand that he wants to boost ties with an important ally to fight terrorism but also use the visit to encourage respect for human rights.

Macron, heading a large delegation on a three-day trip to the Arab world’s most populous country, said he wants to “pursue a truthful dialogue on topics of public freedoms and human rights” — an area he feels Egypt has not progressed enough on since he raised it with officials earlier in his mandate.

France, which considers itself the birthplace of human rights, has come under pressure by advocates to raise the matter with general-turned-President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose human rights record has been widely condemned and is seen as worsening.

Macron said that too many normal people “who do not threaten the regime’s stability” were being jailed. “It is on this area of what is happening in Egypt that I will continue to focus things. I will do it more openly during this trip,” Macron told reporters late on Sunday, adding that better treatment for political opponents was in the interest of el-Sissi and Egypt.

Macron said he felt the current crackdown on opposition in Egypt, begun after el-Sissi overthrew his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, had become worse than under the country’s longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

“I think what is happening here sooner or later threatens the stability of Egypt,” Macron said. “That’s to say, I think that the policies as they are being done are perceived by intellectuals, the Egyptian civil society, as being even stronger than (under) the Mubarak regime.”

Macron also said that he would raise specific names with el-Sissi in a confidential discussion. Aside from heightened public emphasis on human rights, he did not mention raising any new specific levers to try and incentivize the Egyptian leader, who has faced no real competition in parliament or elections.

Rights groups and activists have urged France and other Western powers to halt weapons sales to Egypt, a major purchaser, until it shows improvement on the way it treats its own citizenry. But Macron dismissed using such pressure, saying it was important to respect Egypt’s sovereignty and not cut it off because that could drive it further into the arms of the West’s authoritarian rivals, Russia and China, which el-Sissi has courted.

Asked specifically if human rights issues could affect specific arms sales, such as one under discussion for additional Rafale advanced fighter jets to Egypt, Macron said such matters were separate. “I would differentiate between the two subjects, they are not linked for us and they never were.”

Macron arrived Sunday in Egypt and visited the country’s south, where he toured the famed temple of Abu Simbel and other archaeological sites. He is to meet el-Sissi later on Monday, when he will sign several bilateral accords.

His delegation includes government ministers, two dozen representatives from academic, cultural, and scientific fields, and a dozen business leaders — including the heads of Rafale producer Dassault.

Macron will also dine with local business leaders and meet the heads of Egypt’s Christian and Muslim communities during the trip, his first to Egypt since taking office in 2017.

Roads, trains to link Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia

January 31, 2018

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have agreed to establish railways and roads to connect them to each other, Khartoum’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said yesterday.

The presidents of the three countries met on the sidelines of the 28th ordinary AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday where they “agreed to establish railways and roads connecting the three countries,” Ghandour said in a press statement.

They also agreed to establish a joint financial fund to support these projects, he added.

Remarking on the talks regarding Ethiopia’s dam, Ghandour said a joint political, security and technical committee which includes the ministers of foreign affairs and irrigation, as well as directors of the security and intelligence services from the three countries will be formed in order to provide technical studies for the heads of the three countries related to filling the dam’s lake and how it will operate in a way that does not affect Egypt and Sudan’s share of Nile water.

The Sudanese minister said that Khartoum and Cairo have also agreed to form a committee of foreign ministers and security and intelligence chiefs who will meet in Cairo during the next two weeks to discuss all outstanding issues.

“The presidents of the two countries stressed that the relationship between Egypt and Sudan is eternal and must be maintained,” he said.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180131-roads-trains-to-link-sudan-egypt-ethiopia/.

Egypt’s president submits nominations after rival’s arrest

Thursday 25 January 2018

CAIRO: Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi submitted his nomination documents on Wednesday, a day after a potentially serious challenger in the March vote was arrested by the military.

El-Sisi is virtually certain to win a second four-year term in the March 26-28 vote, as two would-be challengers have withdrawn from the race and another two have been arrested. But his supporters have been actively gathering signatures from voters in an attempt to show he has popular support.

Would-be candidates must secure 25,000 “recommendations” from voters or the support of 20 lawmakers to be eligible to run. El-Sisi already has the support of more than 500 of parliament’s 596 lawmakers. But on Wednesday his official Facebook page posted images of workers unloading boxes of recommendations from a van, each bearing the president’s image and the slogan “Long live Egypt!“

On Tuesday, the military arrested former chief of staff Sami Annan over a slate of serious allegations, all but ending his hopes of running in the election and ensuring that el-Sisi, a former general, will not face off against another member of the country’s powerful military establishment.

Amnesty International said the arrest of Annan amounted to an attack on rights to public participation and freedom of expression.

“It is clear that the Egyptian authorities are hell-bent on arresting and harassing anyone who stands against President el-Sisi,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s North Africa Campaigns Director. “This is consistent with the Egyptian government’s ongoing efforts to crush dissent and consolidate power by attacking civil society, activists and human rights defenders in the country.”

Annan’s arrest leaves prominent rights lawyer Khaled Ali as the only serious would-be candidate to challenge el-Sisi. But Ali’s candidacy is also at risk because he was convicted in September of making an obscene hand gesture in public. If that ruling is upheld on appeal, he will be ineligible. The next appeal hearing is scheduled for March 7, less than three weeks before the vote.

Two other presidential hopefuls have withdrawn.

Former prime minister and air force Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, who finished a close second in Egypt’s first free election in 2012, said he did not think he was the “ideal” man to lead the nation after days of harsh criticism by pro-el-Sisi media.

Another would-be candidate was former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, the nephew of the Egyptian leader who was assassinated in 1981. He said the country’s political “climate” was not conducive to campaigning and because he feared for the safety of his supporters.

Another hopeful, Army Col. Ahmed Konsowa, was court martialed and sentenced to six years in prison for breaching military regulations prohibiting political activism.

In his first public comments since Annan’s arrest, el-Sisi on Wednesday reiterated vague warnings that Egypt is the target of a foreign conspiracy.

“The evil people are still trying to achieve their goal and all eyes are on Egypt, but no one will hurt Egypt,” he said at a ceremony marking Police Day.

“We are talking construction, building and development. We don’t want anyone to lead us astray with rhetoric that we don’t need,” he said, in what may have been a reference to Annan’s video message announcing he would run.

In the video, Annan spoke of deteriorating living standards and what he called the “erosion” of the state’s capabilities, which he blamed it on the military’s growing involvement in the economy and politics. “Wise” policies were needed to bring in the civilian sector, but that required respect for the constitution and guarantees of freedoms, added Annan.

He also took the unusual step of appealing to the military and state institutions to remain neutral in the election, saying they should not be biased in favor of el-Sisi.

El-Sisi led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Muhammad Mursi, whose year in power proved divisive. The government has since waged a wide-scale crackdown on dissent, silencing nearly all its critics.

Except for Mursi and interim president Adly Mansour, who succeeded him in 2013, all of Egypt’s presidents since the establishment of the republic in the early 1950s have come from the military, and the security apparatus is believed to wield great power behind the scenes.

Source: Arab News.

Link: http://www.arabnews.com/node/1232271/middle-east.

Shafiq says will not stand for Egypt president in 2018

2018-01-08

CAIRO – Egypt’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq said on Sunday that he will not now be a candidate in this year’s presidential election, reversing a previous pledge to stand.

His decision to step aside is likely to pave the way for the poll to be dominated by incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The National Elections Authority is expected to announce a date for the election on Tuesday.

Shafiq’s decision not to stand came after he was returned to Egypt last month from the United Arab Emirates, where he had lived in exile since 2012.

“I have decided to not run in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections,” Shafiq said in a statement posted online.

“I saw that I will not be the best person to lead the country in the coming period.”

Shafiq was appointed premier by former president Hosni Mubarak shortly before he was toppled in 2011. He was seen as a main challenger for Sisi who has not yet officially announced his candidacy but is expected to cruise to a new term.

“His withdrawal from the elections might be leaving the scene void of any strong personality that can challenge President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” said Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a political science professor at Cairo University.

– Deported from UAE –

Shafiq announced his plan to stand in a November 29 video from the UAE, saying that it seemed Egypt needed “new blood” to face “many problems in all aspects of life”.

After angering his Emirati hosts by saying in a video first aired by Al-Jazeera that he was being prevented from leaving the country, his aides said he was deported on December 2.

After arriving in Egypt, Shafiq disappeared for around 24 hours before reemerging to tell a talk show host he was reconsidering his bid for the presidency.

On Sunday Shafiq appeared to have dramatically changed his tune on the situation in Egypt.

Being in exile “may have kept me away from carefully following updates in the homeland, of progress and accomplishments,” he said.

Shafiq narrowly lost out on the presidency in 2012 to Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

After the election he was tried in absentia on corruption charges, and was eventually acquitted.

Sisi, a former army chief, was elected president in 2014, a year after leading the military’s ouster of Morsi.

“Shafiq was considered a strong potential candidate to challenge President Sisi as he enjoyed popularity when he ran in the 2012 presidential elections,” Sayyid said.

“Perhaps many people are nostalgic for the days of Hosni Mubarak, who see Shafiq as a continuation of Mubarak’s rule. That’s why it was expected he would attract a large number of voters,” he said.

Other potential candidates may not be able to be muster similar interest, Sayyid added.

– Other candidates –

Such candidates include Khaled Ali, a rights lawyer and presidential candidate in 2012 who challenged the government over Red Sea islands Egypt gave to Saudi Arabia.

In November, Ali announced his intention to stand again in 2018.

However, he had been sentenced in September in absentia to three months in jail on accusations of “offending public decency”, a ruling he appealed.

This was in relation to a photograph, that Ali says was fabricated and that appeared to show him making an obscene gesture while celebrating a court ruling in the case of the islands’ transfer to Saudi Arabia.

Ali said only the committee organizing the election can decide whether that ruling would disqualify him as a candidate.

Another presidential hopeful, military colonel Ahmed Konsowa, was given six years in prison in December by a military court after the previous month announcing his intention to stand.

Konsowa’s lawyer said his client was given the jail sentence for stating political opinions while still in the military, even though Konsowa said he had been trying to resign from the military for more than three years.

Lawyer Asaad Heikal said Konsowa had only followed Sisi’s example in announcing his candidacy. Sisi was in uniform when he did so, before later resigning as defence minister.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86686.

Sisi orders tighter security for vital facilities in Egypt

December 30, 2017

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ordered tighter security measures on Friday for vital facilities across the country, Anadolu has reported. The order came just hours after gunmen attacked Mar Mina Church and a shop in southern Cairo, killing at least 10 people, including eight Christians, and wounding a number of others.

Al-Sisi said that he “is following the consequences of the terror attack closely.” Such “desperate” terrorism, he insisted, will never destroy Egyptians’ national unity. An estimated 10-15 per cent of the population in Egypt are Christians.

Hours before the church attack, the Egyptian army announced that six soldiers and three gunmen had been killed in two separate incidents in North Sinai. Another three soldiers were killed in an attack in Beni Suef.

Only last Tuesday, Egypt’s Minister of the Interior raised the security alert to the highest level during the holiday period. Soldiers were deployed in several cities to secure places of worship.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171230-sisi-orders-tighter-security-for-vital-facilities-in-egypt/.

10-year jail terms for 15 protesters in Egypt

December 29, 2017

An Egyptian court yesterday sentenced 15 persons to ten years in jail each for taking part in protests in late 2013 in the country’s southern province of Minya, a judicial source told the Anadolu Agency.

Fourteen of the defendants were sentenced in absentia and one was present in the court while the verdict was being pronounced.

The verdict may be appealed at a higher court.

Prosecutors accused the defendants of protesting, inciting violence, attempting to wreck public property and membership in an outlawed group, in reference to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The defendants were arrested during a protest in December 2013. Prosecutors referred them to criminal trial in May 2015 and the first trial session was held two months later.

An interim government issued the controversial protest law in November 2013, four months after then-defense chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi led a military coup against the country’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

In the wake of the coup, the government also banned the Muslim Brotherhood group, accused it of terrorism, and rounded up its members and sympathizers. Thousands have been behind bars in pretrial detention or facing trial for membership in the Brotherhood and over accusations such as “inciting violence” and “membership in a terrorist group”. The Brotherhood has repeatedly denied the accusations and stressed that it adheres to peaceful protests against the coup.

The protest law, which was issued in response to a wave of protests that opposed the coup and called for Morsi’s reinstatement, was described by international watchdog Human Rights Watch as “deeply restrictive” and by Amnesty International as “draconian” and “repressive”.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20171229-10-year-jail-terms-for-15-protesters-in-egypt/.

Libya’s Haftar visits Egypt ahead of planned attack on Derna

February 12, 2018

The Commander of the self-styled Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar, has been on a visit to Egypt over the last couple of days as part of as what has been referred to as “joint coordination between Egypt and the army leadership in the fight against terrorism”.

According to an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Haftar arrived in Cairo late on Wednesday and held a series of meetings with senior Egyptian officials to discuss the political and military developments in Libya, pointing out that the talks touched on the issue of coordination in the fight against terrorist groups.

“There is coordination at the highest level between the Libyan National Army and the Egyptian authorities in this regard,” he said.

In the meantime, an official source said that “the National Army is in the process of large-scale military operation in the next few days to begin the liberation of the city of Derna,” which is the main stronghold of terrorist groups in eastern Libya, and added that “preparations [for the operation] are nearing completion”.

Haftar’s eastern-based LNA, one of a number of factions that have vied for power in Libya since a 2011 uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule, is waging a military campaign against a coalition of militants and ex-rebels known as the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council (DMSC) that controls Derna.

Attention has shifted to the coastal city after Haftar announced victory in a three-year military campaign against a similar coalition in Benghazi, 350 kilometers to the west, in July last year.

In May, the city was also a target of Egyptian air strikes. Egypt said it was responding to an attack against Coptic Christians on its territory, though that attack was claimed by Daesh.

Haftar, a figure many believe is seeking national power in Libya, has enjoyed strong backing from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as well as the United Arab Emirates.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180212-libyas-haftar-visits-egypt-ahead-of-planned-attack-on-derna/.

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