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British parliamentarians split over visit of Egypt's Sisi to UK

44 MPs signed an Early Day Motion condemning the Egyptian president's trip to the UK
Protesters demonstrate against the planned visit of Egyptian President Sisi to the UK (AFP)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has welcomed strengthening ties between the UK government and Egypt, during a visit by a delegation from the British House of Lords on Friday.

According to presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef, the five-strong delegation said they looked forward to a planned visit by Sisi to the UK, noting that it will mark an important development of ties between Cairo and London.

However, not all British parliamentarians have welcomed the UK visit by the controversial Egyptian President.

Forty-four UK members of parliament have signed an early day motion calling on the British government to rescind an invitation to Sisi.

The motion, tabled in July, notes “that this House is dismayed that the Prime Minister has extended an official invitation to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to visit the UK".

It also notes that Sisi "supported the dissolution of the Egyptian parliament in 2012 and overthrew elected President Mohamed Morsi in a military coup in 2013; further notes that Mr Morsi is one of hundreds of opponents of President el-Sisi condemned to death in trials widely recognised by international human rights organisations as unfair; believes that the extension of an official invitation to President el-Sisi sends a message to the Egyptian regime that such abuses will be tolerated by the Government. 

“The Government continues to license the export of military and security equipment to Egypt; and [the House] calls on the Prime Minister to rescind the invitation, to put pressure on the Egyptian government to take immediate steps to demonstrate its commitment to democratic freedoms and human rights, including the revocation of all death sentences, and to stop licensing equipment for export to the Egyptian military and security forces.”

Among the signatories are Caroline Lucas, the sole MP for the Green party; Jeremy Corbyn, the recently elected leader of the Labour party; and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

In September, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond reportedly discussed an anticipated visit by Egyptian President Sisi to the UK following British PM David Cameron's invitation in June, which came just a day after ousted president Mohamed Morsi's name was added to the list of death sentences handed down in Egypt.

Human rights lawyers have suggested that Sisi's visit has been delayed because senior Egyptian officials could face arrest for crimes against humanity when they visit London.

Spokespeople for the UK Foreign Office have said that Sisi's visit was expected to take place before the end of the year, but an exact date does not appear to have been set.

In June, the British army provided 31 Egyptian army officers with two-week training exercises on protection from improvised explosive devices, reported Egyptian newspaper Aswatmasriya. 

As head of the military, Sisi overthrew the democratically elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Morsi in July 2013.

Since the ouster of Morsi's government, as many as around 2,000 civilians have been killed and thousands arrested in a crackdown against liberal activists and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now banned as a terrorist organisation in Egypt.