Amid criticisms from local British entities, the Egyptian presidency announced Monday that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi will visit the UK from 4 to 6 November.
The presidency said the visit is to strengthen bilateral relations between both countries. Al-Sisi is expected to meet British Prime Minister David Cameron and Defence Minister Michael Fallon to discuss political and military cooperation.
The much-debated visit was not confirmed by Egyptian officials until a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in early September.
Al-Sisi officially received an invitation from Cameron in June, a day after ousted president Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to death for escaping prison during the 25 January Revolution in 2011.The visit did not take place within next five months, with reports alleging that there were security reasons behind the delay of the visit, in fear of legal prosecution attempts awaiting Al-Sisi upon his arrival in the UK.
After the invitation, the British government defended the initiative and vowed to discuss matters, “which are important to the UK’s national interests”, despite its condemnation of Morsi’s death sentence.
In Britain, since the official announcement of the November visit, critics mobilised against the talks and called upon the British government to “withdraw” its invitation.
They created a petition, signed by several NGOs, parties, activists, politicians, and media personnel. “We are concerned to hear that the government invited the Egyptian dictator, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, to visit the UK. We believe it violates the British values which the government claims to champion to welcome a ruler who has overthrown an elected government.”
The petition was published in the British newspaper the Guardian and mentioned that “while not necessarily supporting deposed President Morsi… we note that he was democratically elected, and that his removal from office was effected by means of a military coup led by Al-Sisi”.
Morsi was ousted in July 2013 after mass protests filled Egyptian streets calling for his removal. He was detained by the army and appeared later in courts where he faced different charges varying from participating in murder, and espionage, to escaping from detention. He is currently on death row and was handed a life sentence in a different case.
As the visit approaches, British Ambassador to Egypt James Casson said Al-Sisi is expected to discuss several files with his Cameron, including countering terrorism and economic and trade relations between both countries.
“Cameron will express his support for Al-Sisi in the undertaken reforms to aid the Egyptian economy,” Casson said, adding that Britain “welcomes” the new parliament, considering it “an important step towards regaining the role of state institutions”.
No sooner than British officials announced the agenda of the talks, movements vowed to protest on Wednesday at Downing Street against Al-Sisi’s visit. The Egypt Solidarity Initiative will be joining with other organisations in a joint protest. The initiative, which is mobilising online, demanded the participants to tell officials that “Al-Sisi is not welcome in the UK”.
Al-Sisi will be meeting British parliament members, the Egyptian presidency spokesperson Alaa Youssef said, asserting the importance of collaboration between the upcoming Egyptian parliaments and its British counterpart. On an economic level, Al-Sisi is expected to meet businessmen and finance personnel to discuss different investment opportunities in Egypt.