French President Francois Hollande said Sunday that he had discussed with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, the case of Italian student Giulio Regeni, whose brutal death near Cairo more than two months ago brought Egypt’s human rights record under international scrutiny.
“I discussed with President al-Sissi the murder of Regeni in Cairo as there are many questions regarding this and other incidents,” Hollande said at a joint press conference with the Egyptian leader in Cairo.
Earlier this month, Italy recalled its ambassador to Egypt in protest against what it called a “lack of cooperation” from Cairo on revealing the truth about the 28-year-old man’s killing.
The body of Regeni was found on a highway outside Cairo on February 3 with signs of torture amid suggestions that Egyptian security services had a hand in his disappearance and then murder, a claim denied by Egyptian authorities.
“I offered my condolences over the death of the Italian student more than once and I said we are transparent and ready to receive any Italian investigative team to assure them,” al-Sissi said on Sunday.
He added that accusations against Egyptian state institutions were aimed at isolating Egypt from its friends.
“But I want to clarify something important to the European community and Egyptians as well: There are attempts to bring down Egypt's institutions such as the police, judiciary and even the parliament,” al-Sissi added.
He said that it would be "difficult to implement the European standards of human rights” in Egypt, which is engaged in fighting terrorism and located in a turbulent region.
In a sign of disagreement on the issue, Hollande said fighting terrorism and respecting human rights were not incompatible.
Hollande is in Egypt for a three-day visit as part of a Middle East tour.
Earlier on Sunday, he toured a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon in a show of solidarity for the refugees and their host country.
“My visit comes to express support and solidarity with Lebanon, refugees and humanitarian organizations,” he said, according to Lebanon’s official National News Agency.
Hollande’s tour of the camp located in Bekka Valley in eastern Lebanon comes a day after he promised that France's humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees in Lebanon would reach 50 million euros (56.4 million dollars) this year.
Lebanon hosts around 1.2 million Syrians who fled civil war in their home country.
France initially agreed to accept 24,000 refugees under a plan to divide new arrivals among countries in the European Union.
It has since said it would take in 30,000 over two years, but has insisted on keeping that cap.
Hollande and other French leaders have repeatedly called for cooperation on migration in Europe, including a plan to patrol external borders in order to keep the Schengen area open to free movement.
Hollande will visit Jordan on Tuesday.