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Egypt parliament speaker discusses counterterrorism with Trump advisor

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal discussed Egypt's battle against terrorism with US President Donald Trump's advisor Nick Ayres. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 19 Apr 2017
Abdel Aal and Ayres
Nick Ayres with Egypt's House of Representatives Speaker Ali Abd Aal in Cairo (Photo:Khaled Mashal)
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Nick Ayres, a political strategist and advisor to US President Donald Trump, paid a surprise visit to Egypt's parliament on Wednesday, where he discussed bilateral relations with parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal.

"Speaker Abdel-Aal [discussed with Ayres]… the necessity of Egyptian-American strategic partnership in fighting terrorism," said a statement by the Egyptian parliament's press office.

Abdel-Aal told Ayres that Egypt has been battling a life and death war against terrorism on behalf of the world.

"Speaker Abdel-Aal also reviewed Egypt's battle against illegal migration operations and how new legislation by parliament has toughened penalties [against human traffickers]," said the statement.

Abdel-Aal told Ayres that "around five million refugees who fled wars in neighbouring countries are now living in Egypt despite the country's hard economic conditions."

Abdel-Aal also reviewed Egypt's economic reform programme, including floating the Egyptian pound, implementing a value added tax law, and parliament's current discussion of a new law to promote investment.

Ayres praised Egypt's efforts in the area of reinforcing equal citizenship values and its effective war against terrorism.

"Advisor Ayres also stressed the importance of Egyptian-American strategic relations," the statement said.

Ayres said that President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence appreciate Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's role in fighting terrorism.

"President Trump was keen during his presidential election campaign to highlight El-Sisi's role in combating terrorism. He was also keen to meet El-Sisi in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings," Ayres was quoted as saying.

Today's meeting was attended by Andrea Zaki, chief of the Christian Anglican Church in Egypt, US priest Michael Youssef, Egyptian parliament deputy speaker Soliman Wahdan, head of defence and national security committee Kamal Amer, female Coptic MP Nadia Henry, and parliament deputy secretary-general Mohamed Nosseir.

Kamal Amer, head of the defence and national security committee, told reporters that Ayres' visit comes amid improving relations between Egypt and the United States.

"[Ayres' visit] comes after a successful visit by President El-Sisi to the US and as the two countries gear up to recovering their old strategic relations," said Amer.

Amer said the recent exchange of visits between Egyptian and American officials reflects a real interest on the side of officials and MPs in the two countries to move relations between the two countries forward.

US defence secretary Jim Mattis is expected to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday as part of a tour of Middle eastern and African countries.

The visit of senior American officials to Cairo comes days after Egypt declared a state of emergency and formed a Supreme Council for Combating Terrorism and Extremism in the aftermath of two deadly suicide bombings on 9 April at Coptic churches in Tanta and Alexandria, which killed 47 people.

Ahmed Rifaat, a member of parliament's defence and national security committee, told reporters that the law on the new council will be discussed by parliament soon.

"Parliamentary and government experts will meet soon to draw up the strategy of this council," said Rifaat, adding that "one of the major objectives of this council is to issue reports on terrorist organisations, including Muslim Brotherhood."

"These reports will be sent to all countries, including the US, which has recently expressed readiness to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation," said Rifaat.

El-Sayed Abu Gad, an MP who was a member of an Egyptian delegation to the United States this month, told Ahram Online that the recent surge in visits by US officials and Congress members to Egypt should be taken advantage of by parliament.

"The designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation by the US was at the top of the agenda of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's visit to the United States on 3 April," said Abu Gad.

"It will be very important that parliament and government officials provide all US administration officials who visit Cairo with all the information necessary to make America's designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation a reality," said Rifaat.

Tarek Radawn, deputy chairman of parliament's foreign relations committee, also told reporters that the meeting with Ayres primarily focused on fighting terrorism.

"The current administration of US President Donald Trump represents a radical change from the previous one led by Barack Obama," said Radawn.

"While the Obama officials viewed political Islamist movements as 'moderate,' the mentality of the Donald Trump is different, taking these movements, particularly Muslim Brotherhood, as the ones that provide militant Islamist movements with the radical ideological basis on which they carry out their terrorist operations."

Radwan added that all MPs, including parliament speaker Abdel-Aal, told Ayres that "the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation by the administration of US president Donald Trump will be a very progressive step in the war against terrorism."

"We told him that political Islam and militant Islamist groups are the same, with each completing the other, and that all should be listed as terrorist organisations," said Radwan.

Radwan cited Ayres as saying that "one of the reasons why Donald Trump won the US elections was his declaration of war against all terrorist and radical Islamist movements."

Radwan said MPs told Ayres that these suicide attacks against Copts aimed to drive a wedge between Egyptian Christians and Muslims.

"All Egyptians are keen not to let these attacks sow the seeds of sectarian tension in their country," said Radwan.

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