Egypt: Biden raises human rights in talks with Sisi, White House

U.S. President Joe Biden raised the issue of human rights in a meeting on Friday with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the COP27 climate summit, the White House said.

According to a White House readout of the meeting between the two leaders on 11 November, US President Joe Biden raised the importance of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms during his meeting with Egypt’s Sisi.

“The president raised the importance of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden and Sisi reaffirmed their commitment to tackling the climate change crisis and discussed a range of issues including the war in Ukraine and food security, it said.

Before he departed US, Biden was urged by human rights activists and a group of House Democrats to raise with el-Sisi the imprisonment of British-Egyptian activist and writer Alaa Abd el-Fattah, who is currently on a hunger strike.

A senior administration official said that the US is “concerned” about the case and that “human rights will feature prominently” in the president’s conversations abroad.

Asked by reporters if he discussed el-Fattah with el-Sisi, Biden said, “What we talked about is the relationship between the United States and Egypt.”

Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s Meeting with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

“President Biden met today with Egypt’s El-Sisi on the margins of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. President Biden congratulated Sisi on hosting COP 27, and the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to accelerating global efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

President Biden and Sisi also emphasized their mutual commitment to the multifaceted U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership. President Biden expressed the United States’ solidarity with Egypt in the face of the global economic and food security challenges caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as his support for Egypt’s water rights.

The President raised the importance of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms. The two leaders also consulted on regional security challenges, opportunities to de-escalate conflicts, and the decades-long U.S.-Egypt defense partnership.”

Remarks by Biden and Sisi Before Bilateral Meeting

Egypt’s Sisi:

Your Excellency, Mr. President, you are most welcome to the city of Sharm el-Sheikh.  I do welcome your (inaudible) delegation as well.  This is a great opportunity.  And this year, we mark 100 years of — celebrating 100 years of U.S-Egyptian relationships.

Allow me to say, sir, that this is a great opportunity as we know are now celebrating our 100th anniversary of the Egyptian-U.S. relationship.

And Your Excellency’s visit to Sharm El-Sheikh is a real reflection of the strength of the relationship and will be a great momentum to this COP27.

This is also a great opportunity that we can boost the strategic relationship between our two countries.

Yesterday I had a great opportunity of meeting Madam Speaker Honorable Nancy Pelosi and several members of the U.S. Congress.  We talked about multiple issues.  And it was a great event.

I would like to seize this opportunity of having U.S. media with us to talk about the overall issues in the Middle East and how things are unfolding in this region.

First of all, I’d like to emphasize the strength of the strategic relationship between Egypt and the United States that has not changed over 40 years.  There has always been common understanding regarding all the issues relating to this region. 

But there’s always a point that is the center of the debate, that we appreciate very much, and this is the human rights part.  In this particular regard, we have a comprehensive approach that I’d like you to listen and hear from us about it and to follow it up, because we are very keen on improving this part.

We have launched a national strategy for human rights.  Then we launched another initiative for national dialogue (inaudible) this year.  This was — coincided with a committee for presidential amnesty.  This is following up all of the relevant issues, and all the lists that are suggested are being approved.

And I don’t feel that this will be very much appropriate to take all the time speaking while Your Excellency is here, but I just wanted to address in general the topics that are of common interest.

Your Excellency, I welcome you.

President Biden: 

I can listen to you much longer, Mr. President.

Sisi: (Laughs.)  I appreciate that.

Biden: No, I’m serious.

Sisi: I appreciate that.  Thank you.

Biden:  First of all, thank you for hosting the COP27 meeting.  The — you know, Egypt has long — been long called the “Mother of the World,” so it seems appropriate that you’re hosting this — this environmental effort.

And thank you for, you know, reminding us the urgency of this crisis.  It is an urgent crisis, and we all have to do considerably more.

Sisi: Yes.

Biden: And that’s why we sent our best — Secretary Kerry, who’s forgotten more about the environment and what we need to do than most people know.

And Egypt has been, by the way, a key mediator, and I appreciate what we were able to do with regard to Gaza and the strong counterterrorism partnership that we’ve established.

In the face of — in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Egypt has spoken up strongly at the United Nations, and that is appreciated very much as well.

Today, we’re also going to discuss a full range of bilateral issues, some of which you referenced, and — to preserving our strong defense partnership, to pursuing a more integrated Middle East, and continuing our dialogue on human rights.  And I’m glad to hear your commission.

And I look forward to our conversation.  You know, as we were saying walking down the hall, it’s hard to believe but it’s been 100 years since there’s been this strong relationship.

Sisi:  Yes.

Biden: So I hope by the end of the commemoration of this year, we can even say we’re closer and stronger in every way.

Sisi: Yes.

Biden: Thank you for having me.

Sisi:  Pleasure.  Pleasure.