There have been no changes to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s invitation to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to visit Germany in June, despite a minor spat between the German Bundestag President and Egypt.
“The invitation of the Chancellor to Al-Sisi remains,” a spokesperson at the Federal Press Office in Berlin said Wednesday, as reported by German news agency DPA.
The visit, controversial in Germany, had been thrown into the spotlight Tuesday as President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert stated he cancelled his meeting with President Al-Sisi over Egypt’s human rights situation.
However, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement responded that Egypt had made no plans to meet Lammert at all, and the meeting was added to the agenda by Germany.
Egypt’s Ambassador to Germany Mohamed Hegazy stated that “the Egyptian side [of Al-Sisi’s visit] did not request or seek a meeting for the President with him; it was rather the German side that had included the meeting in the programme they had prepared for the visit”.
In a statement issued by the German Parliament on Tuesday, Lammert criticised the current political situation in Egypt. “Despite expectations from Egypt to schedule a date for the long-awaited parliamentary elections, what we are witnessing in recent months is systematic persecution of opposition groups, mass arrests, convictions to lengthy prison terms and an incredible number of death sentences, which include former parliament speaker Al-Katatni,” the statement said.
“Given this situation, which contributes neither to domestic peace nor to the democratisation of the country, Lammert sees for the time being no ground for a meeting with President Al-Sisi,” it continued.
Despite the friction, Germany’s leading political figure, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and her government have consistently indicated their keenness on a close political relationship with Egypt’s regime. Earlier in May, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Cairo, and reaffirmed his government’s view that the political crisis across the Middle-East crucially requires Egypt in negotiations.
In March, the German ambassador to Cairo, Hansjörg Haber, made it clear that Al-Sisi’s visit, which was supposed to take place following Egyptian parliamentary elections, would have been more “prestigious” had it occurred after the completion of the democratic road map; however there are few conditions on the visit, the ambassador added. “It does not depend on parliamentary elections or on changing the protest law,” he said.
However, Haber added that among the topics on the agenda for Al-Sisi’s visit is the issue of protests. “Protests contribute to stability in our societies. This is to be discussed [with Al-Sisi] calmly and without tension,” Haber said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had met Al-Sisi during March’s Economic Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh and invited Al-Sisi to Germany. During the conference, billions of Euros of German investment were pledged, with industrial giant Siemens agreeing to invest €10bn ($10.5bn) to increase Egypt’s energy production capacity by up to a third.
Germany has previously been criticised for exporting weapons to Egypt, used to kill civilians during the revolution and other occasions, following a report which listed all arms exports from Germany since 2002.
In 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009, German arms manufacturers were permitted to supply former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime with weapons worth more than €32.9m, including thousands of machine guns, rifles and ammunition.