December 1, 2022

Biden arrives in Egypt for climate summit, discusses human rights abuses with El-Sisi amid illegal detention of prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah

President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi hold a meeting on the sidelines of the COP27 summit on Friday, November 11, 2022. Photo courtesy: White House
President Joe Biden and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi hold a meeting on the sidelines of the COP27 summit on Friday, November 11, 2022. Photo courtesy: White House
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United States President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday held a bilateral meeting with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt where a climate change summit (COP27) is taking place amid reports of human rights abuses and illegal detention of Egyptian-British political activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah.

The White House said in a readout that during their meeting on the margins of the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, President Biden “congratulated President El-Sisi on hosting COP 27, and the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to accelerating global efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

It said that President Biden and President El-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,” added the White House.

On November 10, the family of detained Egyptian-British political activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, on hunger strike and abstaining from water since November 6, announced that prison officials said they had undertaken “medical intervention” in his case without further explanation. Authorities continue to refuse all consular access to UK officials. 

Reacting, Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, called on Egyptian authorities to immediate release the prominent activist.

“Not only have Egyptian authorities locked up Egyptian-British political activist and blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah for merely sharing a Facebook post, they also seem intent on imposing cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by imposing a medical intervention against his will. Hunger striking is a political act. Authorities should immediately release Alaa and allow him access to his family, lawyer and UK officials,” Coogle wrote.

Delivering brief remarks to the press ahead of their bilateral meeting, Biden and Sisi both said they were going to discuss human rights and several other issues.

The Egyptian delegation consisted of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Abbas Kamel, Director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, Amb. Bassam Rady, Spokesperson for the Egyptian Presidency, while the U,S. delegation was made up of President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Daniel Rubinstein, United States Charge d’Affaires to the Arab Republic of Egypt, and Mr. Jeremy Berndt, Director for North Africa, National Security Council.

Sisi described Biden’s visit to Sharm el-Sheik as “a great reflection of the relationship and will be a great momentum to this COP27,” according to an interpreter.

“This is also a great opportunity that we can boost the strategic relationship between our two countries,” Sisi told Biden, adding that he had met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday and several members of the US Congress, and discussed a range of issues.

“I’d like to take this opportunity of having the US media with us to talk about the overall issues of the Middle East and how things are going. First of all I’d like to emphasize that the strength of the strategic relationship with the United States has not changed in over 40 years,” Sisi said, according to the interpreter.

Sisi added that he will also discuss human rights with President Biden, “Because we are very keen on improving this part,” he said.

“We have launched a national strategy for human rights. Then we launched an initiative for national dialogue. This was coincided with a committee for presidential amnesty,” he said, according to an interpreter.

Sisi told Biden that it will take a lot of time to discuss what his administration has done to protect human rights in Egypt, adding that time may not be on President Biden’s side.

“I could listen to you much longer. No I’m serious. First of all, thank you for hosting the COP27. The region has long, long called the mother of the world. So it seems appropriate” that you be hosting “this environmental effort,” Biden responded.

He added, “Thank you for reminding us of this crisis. It is an urgent crisis…That’s why we sent our best, Secretary Kerry, who has forgotten more about the environment” than most people know.”

He said that Egypt has been a key mediator on Gaza and that in the face of Russia’s war in “Egypt has spoken up strongly at the United Nations and that is appreciated very much as well.”

Biden said that both delegations were also going to discuss a full range of bilateral issues, including a strong defense partnership and human rights.

Below are the people Traveling with President Biden via motorcade en route Tonino Lamborghini International Convention Center:

Ambassador Daniel Rubinstein, Chargé d’ Affaires, U.S. Embassy Cairo 

Secretary Antony Blinken, U.S. Department of State

Jen O’Malley Dillon, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff

Jake Sullivan, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Mike Donilon, Assistant to the President & Senior Advisor to the President

Annie Tomasini, Assistant to the President & Director of Oval Office Operations

Kate Bedingfield, Assistant to the President & Director of Communications

Karine Jean-Pierre, Assistant to the President & Press Secretary

Brian Deese, Assistant to the President & Director of the National Economic Council

Kurt Campbell, Deputy Assistant to the Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific

Ryan Montoya, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director of Scheduling & Advance

Curtis Ried, Deputy Assistant to the President & National Security Council Chief of Staff & Executive Secretary

Carlyn Reichel, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for Speechwriting & Strategic Initiatives

Adrienne Watson, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for Press & NSC Spokesperson

Ambassador Rufus Gifford, Chief of Protocol for the United States

Amos Hochstein, Special Presidential Coordinator

Charlie Fromstein, National Security Council Director of Visits and Diplomatic Affairs

Stephanie Epner, Special Advisor For Climate for the National Security Council

Also read Biden’s remarks at the White House before departing for Egypt

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN
BEFORE MARINE ONE DEPARTURE
 
South Lawn
 
(November 10, 2022)

9:27 P.M. EST

Q    Mr. President, do you think that your conversations with the Chinese President will be productive?

THE PRESIDENT:  I always think my conversations are productive.

Anyway —

Q    Are you hopeful that the conflict will be resolved with Russia and Ukraine, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I don’t think the conflict will be resolved with Russia and Ukraine until Ukraine gets out of — until Putin gets out of Ukraine.

Anyway, you guys, I’m heading down to — first of all, going to Cairo for the – for the environmental effort, then heading over to Colombia and then — I mean, Cambodia.  I was thinking — I’m thinking the Western Hemisphere.  And then off to Indonesia.  So there will be a lot to talk about.

Q    Kevin McCarthy says you congratulated him, when you spoke with him, on winning the majority.  Is that true?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I congratulated him — I said, “And if you win the majority, congratulations.  But congratulations — so far, you’ve made some gains.”

Q    And, sir, do you plan to go and campaign in Georgia for the runoff election?

THE PRESIDENT:  I plan on doing whatever he wants me to do for him.

Q    Can you keep the House, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, it’s still alive.  It’s still alive.  It’s like drawing an inside straight.  But it’s still alive.

Q    When are you meeting with the Brazilian president, Mr. President?  When are you meeting the new Brazilian President, the next president — Lula?  When is that happening?

THE PRESIDENT:  I — we don’t have a date yet. 

Thank you.

Q    You said yesterday that the Constitution (inaudible) involved with whether former President Trump could run.  Did you mean that he might not be able to run because of the 14th Amendment?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, I said respecting the institutions matter.  And one of the things I know you all kind of dismissed in my talking about whether or not we had, in America, a land that was consistent with our institutions, and I talked about whether or not there was going to be any shenanigans in the way in which we did our elections.  And I notice all you are talking about it now.  Welcome aboard.

9:29 P.M. EST

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