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Trump says US will forge a 'great bond' with Egypt
Published in Alriyadh on 04 - 04 - 2017

President Donald Trump signalled a new era in U.S.-Egypt relations Monday, assuring his Egyptian counterpart that years of tepid relations will now give way to a "great bond" between their two nations.
Trump reunited with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for talks ranging from collaboration against the Islamic State group to bolstering Egypt's flailing economy.
In Trump, el-Sissi sees new opportunity after years of lukewarm relations with President Barack Obama.
"This is my first state visit to the United States since my inauguration and this is the first visit in eight years for an Egyptian president to the United States," el-Sissi pointed out at the start of his remarks.
Obama never invited the Egyptian leader to the White House and Egypt's government was repeatedly admonished over its human rights record. Obama even briefly suspended some U.S. military aid.
It's the second meeting for the pair. Reflecting on their first encounter in New York shortly before the general election, Trump said el-Sissi is someone "very close to me."
El-Sissi hailed Trump on Monday for his "unique personality" and said that after their first meeting, "I bet on you," the latter being comments he made in Arabic that were not translated.
For Egypt, the objective is clear: Help us help you.
In recent months, U.S. and Egyptian officials have sought to stress commonalities.
Like Trump, el-Sissi believes he can eradicate radical Islamic extremism.
"Together, we will fight terrorism and other things and we're going to be friends for a very, very long time," Trump said, citing a "great bond with the people of Egypt."
El-Sissi vowed to work with the U.S. "to counter this evil ideology that is claiming innocent lives, that is bringing devastation to communities and nations and that is terrorising the innocent people."
Since the military overthrew Egypt's first post-revolution president, the popularly elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, el-Sissi has cracked down on political Islamists. El-Sissi also has taken a heavy hand on Egyptians who've deemed his presidency illegitimate, often relegating human rights concerns to national security.
But el-Sissi's government believes its success in fighting radicalism depends critically on U.S. aid.
Egypt is among the top recipients of U.S. military and economic assistance, but the aid is being evaluated as part of the Trump administration's push for dramatic budget cuts to diplomacy and development. It receives $1.3 billion annually in aid, plus hundreds of millions in economic assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development and other programs potentially on the chopping block.
Trump has vowed to work closely with Arab allies in the fight against the IS group. As a neighbour to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Libya and Sudan, maintaining stability in Egypt is a high priority. But it has sometimes been a relationship from which the U.S. receives little in return, and Trump has said he won't tolerate imbalances in other partnerships, as with China and many European allies.


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