Trump tells Sisi he will visit Cairo at 'earliest opportunity': Egypt presidency

Ayat Al Tawy , Tuesday 16 May 2017

During the Egyptian president's visit to Washington in April, Trump gave his firm backing to Egypt and vowed to cooperate on fighting Islamist terrorism

Sisi Trump
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 3, 2017 (Photo:Reuters)

US President Donald Trump has told President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi that he plans to visit Cairo "at the earliest opportunity" to discuss ways of fighting terrorism in the Middle East, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement on Monday.

Trump's remarks came during a phone conversation with El-Sisi late on Monday in which he stressed the importance of strategic relations between their two countries, the statement added.

The statement did not indicate, however, when the visit is scheduled to take place, nor whether it will precede a likely meeting in Saudi Arabia later this month.

El-Sisi went to Washington last month for talks with Trump in which the US president gave him firm backing and vowed to work together to fight Islamist militants. The visit was aimed at mending ties strained under the administration of President Barack Obama.

El-Sisi and Trump are due to meet at an Arab-Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia scheduled for 21 May. It will be the first stop of Trump's first international trip as president, and will include stops in Israel and the Vatican.

Trump and El-Sisi had demonstrated a certain rapport, exchanging phone calls in the past months, often vowing support and trading praise. El-Sisi was the first foreign leader to congratulate Trump on his election victory.

Egypt has long been one of Washington's closest allies in the region, although relations have been strained since the Arab Spring in 2011.

Egypt has been receiving $1.3 billion in US military aid yearly since signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The military aid is accompanied by an annual economic assistance package, amounting to $150 million in 2016.

Among the key common areas of interest between the two nations is Egypt's battle against an Islamist insurgency centred in the North Sinai governorate, with hundereds of police and military personnel killed in roadside bombs and insurgent attacks. Egyptian authorities frequently announce successful raids to kill and capture Islamists in North Sinai and elsewhere in the country.

Since taking office, Trump has asserted his determination to work with Egypt in battling Islamist terrorist groups, both in Egypt and the region. Any meeting between the two presidents is likely to involve discussion on how to press ahead with counter-terrorism operations.

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