Egypt's COP27 envoy dismisses warning of spying on delegates as 'ludicrous'

German federal police had warned their COP27 delegation in Egypt that they may be subject to spying by Egyptian security agents.

 People listen as they attend the COP27 climate summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 9, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
People listen as they attend the COP27 climate summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt November 9, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

Egypt's COP27 special envoy dismissed as "ludicrous" reports that his country was spying on delegates at the climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh and said some developing states believed the issue was an intentional distraction by rich nations trying to backtrack on their commitments.

Reuters, citing three people with knowledge of the matter, reported that German federal police had warned their nation's delegation at the summit in Egypt that its members may be subject to spying by Egyptian security agents.

One of the people said German police sent an email, warning delegates of "overt and covert surveillance through photography and videography" by Egyptian agents.

Comments last week by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about Egypt's human rights record provoked the threat of surveillance, that person said.

Egypt's envoy denied the German allegations

"Just on the face of it, it seems ludicrous because that's an open event so why would any untoward surveillance exist in an open event when everyone can walk in?" Wael Aboulmagd, the special representative for the COP27 presidency, told a news conference.

 Wael Aboulmagd, special representative to the COP27 president, attends an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo, Egypt May 24, 2022.  (credit: Sayed Sheasha/Reuters) Wael Aboulmagd, special representative to the COP27 president, attends an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo, Egypt May 24, 2022. (credit: Sayed Sheasha/Reuters)

He said some delegates from developing countries viewed reports on the issue as "apparently intentional distractions" at a time when they felt richer countries were trying to water down their commitments to tackle climate change.

"Other delegations, and specially from the developing world, are saying this seems to be a distraction," he said.

An official with Germany's foreign ministry said at the weekend it expected participants to "be able to work and negotiate under secure conditions.

"To this end, we are in continuous exchange with the Egyptian side," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Tuesday, Scholz said he had raised with the COP27 hosts the issue of the jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah, a prominent activist and blogger sentenced to five years on charges of spreading false news.