President Joe Biden arrived Friday in Egypt for a global climate meeting with a giant domestic investment in tow – and he’s likely to face questions about how far the U.S. will go to pull other large greenhouse gas emitters along.
His attendance at the U.N. climate conference, known as COP27, in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is the first stop on an around-the-world trip that will also take him to a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Cambodia and a Group of 20 summit meeting for leaders of the world’s largest economies in Bali, Indonesia.
Shortly after arriving in Egypt, Biden met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi and planned to discuss the two nations’ strategic partnership, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and regional security issues.
White House aides said in advance of the visit that Biden would broach the topic of human rights with El-Sissi, whose government has taken an authoritarian turn. The Egyptian leader proactively raised the topic with Biden before their one-on-one meeting.
“We are very keen on improving this part,” said El-Sissi, who emphasized that Egypt had launched a national strategy on human rights. Biden and other senior officials had also planned to advocate for the release of imprisoned Egyptian pro-democracy activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, whose family said they were told by prison officials he was undergoing an undefined medical intervention amid a hunger strike that escalated Sunday.
For his part, Biden said the two nations are “continuing our dialogue on human rights” and added that he hopes they’ll be “closer, stronger in every way.”
After the brief stop in Egypt, Biden will continue on to Cambodia for a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to reinforce the U.S. commitment to the region in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness.
Egypt’s hosting of the climate summit has drawn intensified international attention to its heavy suppression of speech and political activity. Since 2013, el-Sissi’s government has cracked down on dissidents and critics, jailing thousands, virtually banning protests and monitoring social media.