France announces conference on Middle East religious minorities

Macron met in Cairo with Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar. He also stressed the need for "dialogue between religions" as he met Pope Tawadros II at St. Mark's Cathedral.
Tuesday 29/01/2019
French President Emmanuel Macron is greeted 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 greeted 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)

CAIRO - 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.

Macron and Pope Tawadros II stressed the need for "dialogue between religions" as he met 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.

Macron visited the church adjacent to the cathedral that was the site of a December 2016 jihadist 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.

Also on Tuesday, Macron lunched with civil society members "active in the areas of judicial protection of detainees, press freedom, gender equality and children's defence," the 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 Sisi said security was the priority for Egypt's 100-million population.

During the visit, Macron and 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.

(With AFP)