Diplomacy + Foreign Trade on 9 November 2020
Topping diplomatic coverage this morning: French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Egypt to affirm “deep respect” for Islam yesterday and calm tensions over the controversial Charlie Hebdo comics, telling journalists that French President Emmanuel Macron “has the utmost respect for the religion of Islam” following talks with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Al Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb (watch, runtime: 26:37). France has been the target of anger throughout the Muslim world after Macron defended Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed and announced plans to crack down on what he described as “Islamist separatism” among French Muslims. But Le Drian said yesterday that the president’s comments about the cartoons had been taken out of context, and that France is battling extremists and not Islam as a religion.
El Tayeb said after a meeting with Drian that he would resort to international courts to “prosecute” those who insult Islam or the Prophet Mohamed, Al Azhar said in a statement. El Tayeb said that insults should not be protected forms of speech and called on world leaders to take “tangible steps” to stop associating Islam with terrorism.
Shoukry congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory during the press conference, and said that the Egyptian government stands ready to work with his incoming administration on growing the Egyptian economy and stabilizing the region.
The UK is still in negotiations with Egypt on a trade agreement before Britain’s post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year — and with it dozens of EU trade benefits, according to the Financial Times. Negotiations are also ongoing with Mexico and Vietnam, who combined with Egypt had a total trading relationship with the UK worth around GBP 12 bn in 2019 for goods alone. Trade Minister Nevine Gamea said in June that negotiations between the two countries were close to being finalized though nothing has been heard since.
Measures to curb the effects of the pandemic on the movement of goods and people between Comesa countries were the main topic of discussion during a meeting between Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea and Comesa Secretary-General Chileshe Mpundu Kapwepwe yesterday, the cabinet said in a statement. The two also looked into preparations for the Comesa heads of state summit that will be held next year.
Egypt and the Netherlands look set to work more closely on water management techniques after the countries’ irrigation ministers agreed to exchange experiences in agricultural methods, coastal management and wastewater treatment, the Egyptian Irrigation Ministry said in a statement.