Sisi heads to Germany as Egypt hopes for Western support
CAIRO - Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi travels to Berlin on Tuesday, where German leaders are ready to roll out the red carpet.
The trip, a first state visit long desired by the former army chief, will see him meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, who as an activist played a prominent role in ending repressive Communist rule in East Germany. El-Sisi will also meet corporate leaders at a business conference Thursday.
El-Sisi's office said he seeks to boost economic, military and security cooperation, and highlighted 4.4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) in bilateral trade last year. Germany's Siemens AG has made the largest single commitment so far to Egypt under el-Sisi's yearlong rule — a 10 billion euro agreement to build power plants.
With much of the Middle East plunged into violent chaos in the years since the Arab Spring uprisings, Western nations have once again come to see many of the region's rulers as partners for stability.
El-Sisi, who overthrew his Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, following mass protests in 2013, has said Egypt must focus on stability and security in order to recover from years of turmoil unleashed by the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Berlin police say some two dozen protests have been registered, but with fewer than 100 people at each, numbers far below the thousands of pro-Sisi demonstrators registered by Coptic Christian and other groups.
A plane carrying over 140 el-Sisi supporters, including celebrities, departed early Tuesday for Berlin ahead of his visit.
El-Sisi makes no secret of his admiration for German efficiency and the country's economic prowess, and proudly announced Merkel's invitation at an investment conference in March. In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine earlier this year, he defended his government's actions by saying there is a "civilizational gap" between Germany and Egypt. "The police and people in Germany are civilized and have a sense of responsibility," he said.