SHAFAQNA -Â Angela Merkel has praised Egyptâ€™s peace efforts in the Middle East following a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [Photo] in Berlin. The pairâ€™s press conference was shut down after it descended into chaos.
The news conference hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday came to an abrupt end after security was called in to remove a female reporter who addressed al-Sisi yelling â€œHeâ€™s a murderer!â€
There were also cries of â€œdown with the military ruleâ€ from the press pack, while reporters from Egypt yelled â€œlong live Egypt!â€ before the two leaders were hurriedly whisked from the room.
Before the upset, Merkel had pledged closer economic ties with Egypt, saying the country was a key strategic partner in the Middle East and in the fight against Islamist extremism.
â€œEgypt is one of the central countries in a region marked by unrest and instability,â€ the chancellor said, adding that closer business links would help bring â€œstability through economic development.â€
Al-Sisi, Egyptâ€™s former army chief, led the coup that ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013. He was subsequently elected by a landslide and has waged a brutal crackdown against Morsiâ€™s supporters ever since. Hundreds have been killed or jailed, while dozens, including Morsi, have been sentenced to death in a series of mass trials.
Al-Sisiâ€™s two-day visit to Berlin has stirred up some controversy in Germany. Human rights activists have organized a number of street protests to coincide with the Egyptian leaderâ€™s trip, while NGOs including Amnesty International have asked Merkel to urge al-Sisi to end Egyptâ€™s â€œhuman rights crisis.â€
Germanyâ€™s government is keen to maintain a cordial relationship with its partner in North Africa, although Bundestag house speaker Norbert Lammert called off his meeting with al-Sisi, citing Egyptâ€™s lack of democracy and the crackdown on political opposition.
Berlin Besuch al-Sisi Demonstration Regimegegner
Protesters gathered outside Berlinâ€™s Bellevue presidential palace as al-Sisi was welcomed with military honors
â€˜Difference of opinionâ€™
In Wednesdayâ€™s press conference, Merkel acknowledged there were â€œdifferences of opinionâ€ between the two countries on human rights matters and capital punishment. The chancellor criticized Cairoâ€™s reliance on the death penalty and stressed that â€œunder no circumstances, even with regard to terrorist activities, must people be sentenced to death.â€
She added however, that â€œif one wants to be partners and solve complex issues, we have to be able talk about these things â€¦ this doesnâ€™t mean that we canâ€™t work very, very closely on other issues.â€
Al-Sisi defended the death sentences, saying it was a matter for the Egyptian judiciary. â€œLet the process run its course,â€ he said. â€œWe, too, love democracy and freedoms in Egypt. But we live in a very difficult time.â€
Earlier on Wednesday, al-Sisi was welcomed by German President Joachim Gauck with full military honors at Berlinâ€™s Bellevue Palace. The Egyptian leader was later expected to meet with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.