France FM in Egypt to calm tensions after cartoon controversy

Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian ‘will pursue the appeasement process’ started by President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Egypt on Sunday hoping to ease tensions following the publishing of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked ire in the Arab world.

A diplomatic source said Mr. Le Drian would meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Muslim authority.

Mr. Le Drian “will pursue the appeasement process” started by President Emmanuel Macron, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, considered the foremost religious institutions for Sunni Muslims, condemned French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s decision in September to reprint the cartoons.

And last month Mr. Tayeb denounced remarks by Macron in “Islamist separatism” as “racist” and spreading “hate speech”.

Demonstrations have erupted in several Muslim-majority countries after Mr. Macron defended the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which many saw as insulting and an attack on Islam.

Mr. Macron’s remarks came after a suspected Islamist decapitated a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb on October 16, after he showed the cartoons during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Mr. Sisi himself had weighed in, saying last month that “to insult the prophets amounts to underestimating the religious beliefs of many people”.


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