(AA) – German Parliament Speaker Norbert Lammert has defended his decision not to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during his planned visit to Berlin next month and has criticized the human rights situation in Egypt.
“The recent developments in Egypt have made it blatantly obvious that we cannot talk about any recognizable democratic development in the country. That has left no ground for such a meeting. I wouldn’t know what I could talk with the president,” Lammert told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview Wednesday.
Lammert said that when he was first asked for a meeting with el-Sisi, he thought that this request would be joined by several steps by the Egyptian leadership towards political reconciliation and democratization, but expressed regret that this had not been the case in the past weeks. He also criticized the postponement of parliamentary elections in Egypt.
“Given the situation in Egypt which I have described, I do not see which issue I could talk about with the president of Egypt in this very moment. As there is no recognizable, serious issue in so far, it does not make sense,” he said.
Lammert’s decision to turn down a meeting with el-Sisi came after a court sentenced Egypt’s first elected president Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in connection with a mass jail break in 2011.
Morsi was ousted in mid-2013 by the Egyptian army, which was headed at the time by el-Sisi.
– Doubts about fair trial
Lammert voiced doubts about the fairness of trials opened against opposition politicians and activists in recent years in Egypt, and recalled the reports of independent international observers.
“I would refrain from making general comments, but the reports of recognized international institutions, which attract my attention, express grave doubts about respect to rule of law [in Egypt] during these trials and the claimed political independence of these courts,” he said.
– Stability or human rights?
The German speaker also noted the importance of Egypt for stability in the region, but also underlined that avoiding criticism of repressive regimes because of their strategic importance would not be acceptable.
“Stability at the expense of human rights cannot be seriously taken into consideration, “Lammert said.
“We cannot accept such alternatives. Historical experience shows that when stability is prioritized as an alternative, the human rights perspective is totally abandoned,” he added.
“We have vital interests in a stable region and we do not oversee the strategic importance which Egypt has within this region. But we also do not oversee that there is an obvious interest within the Egyptian society to modernize, and democratize the structures of the country.”
– Government stands by invitation
The German government announced Wednesday that it was standing by its invitation to el-Sisi, despite growing criticism among politicians, including recent remarks by its own parliament speaker.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a press conference in Berlin that Egypt was an important country for regional stability at a time of growing threats in the Middle East and Africa.
“Despite our differences with the Egyptian government on many issues, despite our clear opposition to the death sentences, we believe that it was important to further continue these talks with them,” Seibert said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited el-Sisi to Berlin for bilateral talks during a telephone conversation in September last year. The Egyptian president is expected to visit Berlin between June 3 and 4.