Hollande in Cairo: Billion-dollar arms deal trumps human rights

Hollande in Cairo: Billion-dollar arms deal trumps human rights
3 min read
18 April, 2016
Video: A focus on human rights forced Sisi to defend his record, but didn't derail a billion-dollar arms deal.

Respecting human rights is no hindrance in the fight against terrorism, French President Francois Hollande said after meeting the Egyptian leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The remarks were made on Hollande's second leg of a regional tour expected to end on Tuesday.

Sisi took the opportunity to defend his country's human rights record and dismissed allegations of abuses as a plot by "an evil force".

"The region we live in, President Hollande, is very turbulent," Sisi told his French counterpart. The "European criteria" of human rights should not be applied to countries fighting terrorism, such as Egypt, he added.

However, Hollande replied that "human rights are not a constraint, but also a way to fight against terrorism".

Rights groups have accused Egypt's security services of carrying out illegal detentions, forced disappearances of activists and the widespread torture of detainees since the ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in a July 2013 military coup.

After his removal, a police crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters left hundreds dead and tens of thousands jailed. Hundreds more have been sentenced to death, including Morsi himself.

In March, US Secretary of State John Kerry said there had been a "deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt in recent weeks and months".

Hollande said Paris and Cairo "must fight with determination".

Video: Hollande visited a refugee camp in Lebanon

"That's why we have signed security agreements for the region between France and Egypt," he said.

The two leaders signed a $1.1 billion arms deal including Egypt's purchase of a French military satellite communications system, according to France's La Tribune website.

Sisi praised "cooperation between the two countries in all international fields" and suggested they should be increased to include areas of transportation, renewable energy as well as fighting "terrorist" threats.

The sentiment was reiterated by the French leader who suggested the two nations should boost ties "in the political field, in the economic and cultural fields, and even the... tourism field".

The visit comes after Hollande met with Syrian refugee children in in Lebanon on Sunday.

The French leader travelled to an informal settlement in Lebanon's Bekaa valley that is home to some 600 Syrian refugees, mostly women and children.

"I just visited a camp the likes of which are all over Lebanon," Hollande told reporters after spending nearly an hour in the Al-Dalhamiyah camp.

"They (Syrian children) don't want violence. They want to learn and go home, join their families, their country," he said.

While Lebanon is home more than one million Syrian refugees, France hosts more than 10,000.

During the visit, Hollande announced 100 million euros ($113 million) in assistance to the small Mediterranean country over the next three years.