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Trump Hails Sisi

As thousands of political prisoners languish in Egyptian prisons, US president says he strongly backs Sisi’s leadership
Donald Trump (R) and Abdel Fattah al-SisiDonald Trump (R) and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
The meeting symbolizes the Egyptian leader coming in from the cold, after years of being kept at arm’s length by Washington

US President Donald Trump set human rights scandals aside to welcome Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House on Monday, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade.

Greeting Sisi warmly in the Oval Office, Trump heaped praise on the former general’s leadership as he sought to mend ties strained by crackdowns, revolution and counter-revolution, AFP reported.

“You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Trump told Sisi, sweeping aside his predecessor Barack Obama’s concerns about Sisi’s purge of political opponents and rights activists.

The meeting symbolizes the Egyptian leader coming in from the cold, after years of being kept at arm’s length by Washington.

Trump is betting that Egypt can be a partner in achieving two key goals: restarting the Middle East peace process and tackling terrorist groups.

“I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi—he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” Trump said.

The last time an Egyptian president was at the White House was in 2010, when Hosni Mubarak attended Middle East peace talks alongside Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.

Within months, Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising, as the Arab Spring swept across the region.

Obama had angered allies in Egypt’s powerful military by putting his finger on the scales, warning them against quashing protests by force.

In the months and years that followed, the Egypt-US relationship was strained further as a military government—led by Sisi—took charge.

Hundreds of demonstrators were killed and thousands jailed during the accompanying crackdown, prompting Obama to freeze military aid to Egypt—worth roughly a billion dollars a year.

Egypt’s pivotal regional role meant that aid was fully reinstated in 2015, but diplomatic relations remained difficult.

  Common Cause

The catalyst for Trump and Sisi’s friendship has been a common hardline stance against terrorist groups, which Sisi described as “a satanic ideology” during brief remarks at the White House.

The former New York property tycoon and the former Egyptian army general, who had no plans for a joint press conference, previously met in September when Trump’s campaign was still in full swing. Trump at the time called Sisi a “fantastic guy.”

In one of several public appearances, Trump gave only the slightest hint of areas of difference.

“We have many things in common; we have a few things that we don’t agree on,” he said. “I think that this is going to be a very productive day.”

Asked directly whether human rights were discussed, Trump declined to answer.

 

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