Merkel to meet Egyptian president amid rights criticism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel still plans to meet Egypt’s president when he visits next month, her spokesman said Wednesday, after Germany’s parliament speaker called off his talks citing rights violations.

The parliament speaker, Norbert Lammert, said on Tuesday that he had written to the Egyptian ambassador in Berlin cancelling his meeting with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi due to human rights abuses.

“Instead of the long anticipated scheduling of parliament elections, we’ve been seeing for months a systematic persecution of opposition groups with mass detentions, sentencing to long prison terms and an unfathomable number of death sentences,” Lammert, a member of Merkel’s conservatives, said in a statement.

Merkel sent the invitation to Sisi in September to visit Germany, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said, adding: “The invitation endures, it stands.”

The visit is expected to take place on June 3 and 4, but the date has not been officially confirmed.

“Egypt is an incredibly important actor in the whole Arab region,” Seibert told reporters, highlighting its role in efforts for stability and peace in the Middle East.

“It is right therefore, despite all differences of opinion, despite our clear rejection of the death sentences… to maintain dialogue,” he added.

Germany rejects capital punishment, and voiced dismay early this week over the death sentences handed down to ousted president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, and dozens of others.

The United States and Europe have also expressed alarm at the death sentences given over a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising.

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