Security should not be separate from human rights. So said French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel al-Sisi in Cairo on January 28.

“Stability and durable peace go together with respect for individual dignity and the rule of law, and the search for stability cannot be dissociated from the question of human rights,” he said during a joint press conference with Sisi that was dominated by Egypt’s poor human rights record.

For his part, Sisi defended his administration’s actions. “Egypt does not advance through bloggers. It advances through the work, effort and perseverance of its sons,” he said.

As reported by FRANCE 24 online, Macron faced increasing criticism over his silence on Egypt’s human rights records, including a crackdown on a labour rights movement at an Egyptian Navy shipyard building battleships in partnership with a French company.

Following a meeting with Sisi shortly after his presidential election victory, Macron told reporters it was not up to him to “lecture” his Egyptian counterpart on human rights abuses.

Online, trade and military deals were expected to dominate the agenda as France has turned into the biggest supplier of arms to Egypt in recent years, reported FRANCE 24. Cairo has purchased French fighter planes, warships and a military satellite in a deal worth more than €1bn and Sisi’s administration signed a €5.2bn deal in 2015 for the purchase of Rafale fighter jets, missiles and a frigate.

Reporting from Cairo for FRANCE 24 shortly after the joint press conference, Ruth Michaelson noted that with the trade and military deals, there was “a lot of emphasis on the positive relations between the two countries, the place of Egypt in the region, the importance of Egypt for the situation in Libya, for example”, she said.

“But the most remarkable parts were that to have a foreign leader come to Egypt and to say quite publicly – he was very careful not to frame this as a criticism or an intrusion into Egyptian sovereignty – but he made it quite clear that he had placed demands on Sisi to improve Egypt’s human rights record and potentially even to free some political prisoners who are behind bars here in Egypt.”