Amid intensive meetings held by the world leaders in New York, there was a wide response to the meeting between President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his American counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, during which Trump praised El-Sisi, describing him as a “great leader” and said that “when he took over not so long ago, it was in turmoil. And it’s not in turmoil now.”
Trump thus reflected the status of Egypt and the strategic relations between the two sides, based on mutual interests and mutual respect.
It also sent painful messages to organisations and states supporting terrorism in the Middle East that there are new horizons of cooperation between the two sides in order to combat these groups and their funders through a number of joint steps in order to restore stability in the region which has been suffering from successive crises for almost a decade.
In an interview with Ahram Online, Erica Chiusano, director of the Dubai Regional Media Hub and the Arabic language spokesperson for the US State Department, discusses the American plans on several issues, including the Palestinian cause and Syria, Libya and Sudan. Chuisano also discusses new American measures to combat funders and supporters of terrorist groups.
Ahram Online: Are there any new steps to strengthen the US administration’s support for Egypt during the next period especially regarding combating terrorism?
Erica Chiusano: Egypt is one of the old strategic partners of the US in the region; it plays a vital role in the regional security and stability through counter-terrorism efforts. In addition, it supports the UN-led peace efforts in Libya as well as the peace efforts in the Middle East and confronting the Iranian regime’s dangerous activities in the region.
We continue to strengthen our strategic relations with Egyp tthrough strengthening security cooperation and joint security efforts.
AO: Should we expect American-Egyptian cooperation during the next period towards a comprehensive and fair solution to the Palestinian cause? And what are the US administration’smost significant steps towards resuming peace talks between Israel and Egypt?
EC: The US administration continues to work towards realising a comprehensive and permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinian people in a way that brings forth a bright future for everybody. Details will be announced at the right time and when the administration believes that it has the best chance for success.
AO: What is the American standpoint towards the current tension in the Middle East? Is there cooperation with Egypt concerning the most prominent issues in the region whether in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Sudan?
EC: Trump described our partnership with Egypt as “strategic and strong,” and there is a strong relationship tying the US and Egypt that has several security and economic aspects.
As Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, said at the Security Council on 20 August, the Trump administration is reviving the leading role of the US in the region through building alliances and backing them with the intention of addressing regional challenges.
We have helped in dismantling the IS organisation and we continue to work with 79 partners including Egypt within the Global Coalition to get rid of this organisation and help the region to recover from this threat.
We are working closely with the special UN envoys and our regional partners and allies to help bring peace in Syria, Yemen and Libya.
As for the Sudan issue, the US will remain a constant partner with the Sudanese people in their pursuit towards forming a civilian government that works on supporting peace, security and prosperity.
We are facilitating new ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours through a ministerial meeting in Warsaw. We have also hosted a second meeting on promoting religious freedom and protecting religious minorities in the Middle East was the pivot of this activity. The US initiated recently efforts for protecting international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
AO: Terrorist groups are still playing a role in destabilising the region, with the support of certain states. What is the US administration’s plan to confront these states’ funding of terrorist groups?
EC: President Trump signed an executive decision recently that updates sanctions aiming at combating terrorism and widens its scope.
This executive decision enhances the US’s capability to target terrorists and deprive them and their funders of financial and logistic support worldwide.
Foreign financial institutions are now fully aware that they will face sanctions if they deliberately make any significant transactions with listed terrorists and their funders.
The US and its partners have liberated 100 percent of the lands seized by IS in Syria and Iraq and launched decisive strikes against IS, AlQaeda and Hezbollah’s financial and managing networks worldwide.
The US continues to use all means, including financial sanctions, in targeting terrorists and those enabling, facilitating and funding their heinous acts.
AO: Should we expect American measures towards the escalating Iranian intervention in the region, especially after the attack on Saudi oil sites? Will the US impose new sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear programme?
EC: This month Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, called all the world countries to publicly and categorically condemn Iran’s attacks, and the US will work with its partners and allies to ensure that Iran will be questioned for its aggression.
The US administration wants Iran to behave like a normal country, not like a state that has a revolutionary issue. We also want Iran to stop developing and deploying ballistic missiles and also to stop supporting terrorist agents. We wish that the UN would take a strong stand during the presence of President Trump andSecretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York this week.
We also wish that the UN would have a unified stand like what the Iranian people want, which is the peaceful solution, and an Iranian regime that doesn’t participate in terrorism and chaos in more than five countries. We will continue the pressure campaign, which we are leading, until the Iranian regime changes its attitude.