Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has kicked off his first European tour with a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican.
During the visit, the first between an Egyptian leader in eight years, the Pope stressed the importance of strengthening constitutional safeguards on human rights and religious freedom, adding that he hoped inter-religious dialogue would continue in Egypt.
The Pope also asserted “the closeness and solidarity of the Church to all the people of Egypt during this period of political transition.”
The 77-year-old Pope also urged Sisi to ensure Egypt’s role in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and North Africa.
“It was reiterated that dialogue and negotiation are the only options to put an end to the conflicts and to the violence that endanger defenceless populations and cause the loss of human lives,” said a statement released by the Vatican following the visit.
Egypt’s President also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who hailed Egypt as a “strategic partner” of Italy and Europe.
“Italy is absolutely convinced that the Mediterranean is not the frontier but the heart of Europe and Egypt must be considered a strategic partner in addressing together the problems of this area,” said the Italian leader.
In a press conference with the Egyptian President, Renzi added that Italy would be sending a major trade delegation to Egypt in February to boost economic ties between the two countries.
It was also agreed that high level meetings would be held on an annual basis between government officials of both countries.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Sisi reiterated the importance of Europe’s role in combating militancy in the Middle East.
“We expect a real solution. Real support from Europe for Egypt in the upcoming period,” said Sisi.
The Egyptian President is also expected to visit Paris this week to meet with French government officials.