Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has met Pope Francis, kicking off his first European trip since ousting his predecessor and overseeing a crackdown that has killed hundreds.
Sisi’s visit to the Vatican on Monday will be followed by a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at 1800 GMT, Renzi’s office said.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Adow, reporting from the Vatican, said that the talks with the Pope were expected to address the relationship between Vatican and Sunni Islam’s highest theological institution, al-Azhar University, that had a fallout with the Roman Church in 2011.
“The fallout followed comments made by Pope Francis’ predecessor on religious minorities in Egypt who’re not being protected. It’s hoped that this meeting will accelerate the normalisation of the relationship between al-Azhar and [the] Vatican,” said Adow.
Officials said the four-day tour, which will also take Sisi to France, was aimed at securing European investment in the Egyptian economy, which has been battered by political turmoil since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.
Sisi, who was then army chief, ousted president Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected leader, in July 2013.
The move prompted a wave of deadly violence between security forces and Morsi’s supporters, drawing rebukes from Europe and the United States.