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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Macron calls for inter-religious dialogue at end of Egypt visit

The French president and Pope Tawadros II stressed the need for 'dialogue between religions'

French President Emmanuel Macron is received by Grand Sheik Ahmed Al Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, during his visit to Al-Azhar headquarters, in Cairo, Egypt, January 29, 2019. Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron is received by Grand Sheik Ahmed Al Tayeb, the head of Al-Azhar, during his visit to Al-Azhar headquarters, in Cairo, Egypt, January 29, 2019. Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron met Tuesday with Egypt's top clerics and called for inter-religious dialogue at the end of a three-day visit aimed at boosting ties while raising human rights concerns.

Mr Macron and Pope Tawadros II stressed the need for "dialogue between religions" as he met with Pope Tawadros II at St Mark's Cathedral, seat of Egypt's ancient Coptic Orthodox Church.

"I decided that a new conference will be held in Paris to see how to act more effectively," he said, without giving details.

A diplomatic source said the French capital would host a forum on religious minorities in the Middle East, but without giving a date.

Mr Macron visited the church adjacent to the cathedral that was the site of a December 2016 militant attack which killed 29 people.

He also met in Cairo with Ahmed Al Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, the most prestigious seat of Sunni Islamic learning in Egypt.

Their talks centred on "the training of imams (prayer leaders) in France and the fight against the misguided vision of religion", the French presidency said.

On Monday, the human rights situation in Egypt was at the centre of talks between Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

Their different visions were on show at a joint news conference where Macron said respect of freedoms was inseparable from stability while Mr Sisi said security was the priority for Egypt's 100-million population.

During the visit, Mr Macron and Mr Sisi oversaw the signing of some 30 deals worth nearly a billion euros (dollars) including in transportation, education and health. No arm deals were signed.

After Egypt, the French president travelled on to Cyprus for a summit of southern EU countries on migration and security.

Updated: January 29, 2019 05:01 PM

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