Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is to go on his maiden state visit to the White House, where he is expected to get a warmer reception than he ever would have under the former US administration.
The former chief of the Egyptian army, who is to meet US President Donald Trump on Monday, came to power in July 2013 by ousting Egypt’s first-ever democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a coup.
Rights groups say the putsch and the draconian security measures that ensued have killed hundreds of people. More than 20,000 people have also reportedly been arrested. UK-based rights body Amnesty International has also raised the alarm over rampant forced disappearances in the country under Sisi.
The Arab state had its 1-billion-dollar-plus military aid from Washington suspended for some time under the previous US administration over the strong-arm tactics. The Egyptian president made an unofficial visit to the US and met with Trump while the latter was still on hustings.
A senior White House official said on Friday that Trump wants to “build on the strong connection the two presidents established” then, AFP reported. Trump had called Sisi “a fantastic guy.” “[Sisi] took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it,” Trump has said.
The White House under former president Barack Obama had also halted major drills with Cairo. In late February, however, the US Central Command said the Trump administration intended to resume the war games.
Sisi has previously said in an interview, “As a matter of fact, President-elect Trump has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and what is taking place in Egypt.”
Late last year, the United Nations (UN) was to adopt a resolution drafted by Egypt against Israel’s settlement activities. In the run-up, Cairo asked for the voting process to be delayed after a phone call from the then-President-elect Trump.
Though the voting process eventually went ahead and the measure was approved, observers view the Sisi-ordered dilatory move as a serious overture toward Washington, Tel Aviv’s biggest ally.
In an apparent effort to shore up Washington’s troubled alliance with Cairo, the Trump administration had mulled designating the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s banned political movement with which ousted president Morsi was affiliated, a terrorist organization.
However, the plan was reportedly shelved amid growing fears that it could backfire due to the movement’s complex structure and its influence across the Middle East and North Africa.—Agencies