Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)
Wednesday,14 November, 2018
Issue 1337, (23 - 29 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Cairo and Washington move closer

Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee predicts a boost in Egyptian-US relations now Donald Trump is in the White House

Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump in New York last September   (photo: Reuters)
Al-Sisi’s meeting with Trump in New York last September (photo: Reuters)

The Foreign Relations Committee reviewed Egyptian-American relations this week after it was announced that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi will visit Washington and meet with new US President Donald Trump on 3 April.

The trip will be Al-Sisi’s first visit to the White House since being elected president in 2014. He was never invited by former US president Barack Obama.

Tarek Al-Khouli, secretary of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters “the committee’s review focused on President Al-Sisi’s anticipated visit to Washington and the expected exchange of visits between parliamentarians in Egypt and the US.”

The visit is indicative of the change in American politics following the election of Donald Trump, said Al-Khouli. “Obama was a disaster for Egyptian-American relations. Not only did he support the ousted Islamist regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, he put Egyptian-American strategic military relations on hold.”

“The committee believes that the visit could lay the foundations for a new strategic relationship between Egypt and America. America’s new president says he wants to cooperate with Egypt in fighting terrorism and finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If this is true, then Egypt is ready for cooperation.”

Al-Khouli said Saturday’s invitation to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri from his US counterpart Rex Tillerson to join a Coalition against Islamic State Conference was a positive sign.

Al-Khouli also revealed a number of members of US Congress had shown interest in joining a parliamentary friendship association with Egyptian MPs.

“We hope to meet with these Congress members next month,” said Al-Khouli.

“One of the main objectives of such an association will be to stand up to campaigns in the American media supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist movements.”

MPs expect Al-Sisi’s visit to Washington will focus on ways to combat radical Islamist movements, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. Speculation is also growing that A-Sisi and Trump will issue a joint call for an international conference against terrorism to be held in Cairo.

Foreign Relations Committee member Dalia Youssef said on Sunday that next month’s visit of US congressional leaders to Cairo is part of efforts aimed at returning Egyptian-American relations to a sound track.

Youssef, who has just completed a week-long visit to Washington, disclosed that “an Egyptian parliamentary delegation will be visiting the United States very soon.”

“President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is expected to meet Donald Trump in the White House in early April. His trip will be followed by a visit from an Egyptian parliamentary delegation either later the same month or in May.”

Youssef said the parliamentary visit to Washington was first mooted following Trump’s election victory in January and told reporters she hoped an Egyptian-American parliamentary friendship association could be formed in Cairo next month.

Youssef’s one-week visit to the US aimed “to open channels with American congressmen and officials close to Trump”.

“I was keen to meet with President Trump’s advisor for Middle East affairs, Walid Phares, and officials from the State Department and to visit American research centres to discuss terrorism, radical Islam and reform of religious discourse,” said Youssef.

She also visited American companies with investments in Egypt.

“Most of the officials I met with agreed the Trump administration is serious about confronting radical Islam. It will be the main focus of discussions when President Al-Sisi visits Washington next month.”

Republican Congress members told Youssef the new administration was keen to turn a fresh page with Egypt. She quoted controversial Republican Congressman Steve King as saying “there is a strong desire in the Donald Trump administration, and among Republican Congress members, to move Egyptian-American relations forward and that the two countries develop a new strategy against political Islam”.

Youssef said US officials and Congressmen believe Egypt can play a crucial role in confronting radical Islam. “They also believe Egypt will play a significant part in the quest to find a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Khaled Abdel-Aziz, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters Al-Sisi and Trump are committed to building an international front against terrorism and radical Islam.

“The new US president saw how his predecessor’s support of Islamist movements led to the proliferation of terrorism in the Middle East and other parts of the world. What is necessary now is to get rid of this legacy and build an international front against terrorism,” said Abdel-Aziz.

Foreign Relations Committee head Ahmed Said told Al-Ahram Weekly that “no sooner had the news broken that President Al-Sisi would visit Washington next month than America’s liberal media began trying to disrupt the visit.”

“It is really great the new US administration decided to extend the invitation despite the hostile press campaigns America’s liberal circles have launched against Al-Sisi’,” said Said.

When Egypt’s parliamentarians travel to Washington they will be carrying a detailed report on “the dangers of political Islam in Europe and America”, disclosed Said.

“The report is a response to circles in the US and UK which defend Islamist movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood,” Said concluded.

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