Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1340, (13 - 19 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Sending clear messages

While in the US, President Al-Sisi sent clear-cut messages, reports Mohamed Abdel-Baky

Al-Sisi with Baier
Al-Sisi with Baier

As he concluded his visit to Washington, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi gave an interview to Fox News seeking to send clear messages in response to media reports critical of his government’s policies.

Former president Hosni Mubarak had usually appeared on CNN and PBS’ Charlie Rose, however, Al-Sisi chose to go to Fox News which has a bigger viewership.

In the interview with Bret Baier, chief political anchor for Fox, Al-Sisi implied that US policy in the region in the last four years had been less than satisfactory on several fronts which led to a vacuum filled by Russia.

He noted there was a shift in policies in the Donald Trump administration, saying he believed that the new administration truly understood the complexity of the situation in the region in light of the increase in terrorism, drawing a contrast with the policies of the Barack Obama administration.

“In fact, many things over the last four years occurred and caused many, many problems,” Al-Sisi said. “That’s a fact. The region is paying a very heavy price for that.”

Al-Sisi also described Trump as a “unique personality” and that he had “every confidence of unprecedented success” for the American president.

“There is seriousness and responsible actions in facing extremism and terrorism in the region. And that’s a wonderful thing indeed,” Al-Sisi said, responding to a question about changes the Trump administration has made. “There is nothing better than to counter evil.”

Al-Sisi visited Washington for five days last week to re-boot US-Egyptian relations after a decade of tension. During his visit Al-Sisi was warmly received at the White House by Trump who pledged to support Egypt as a strong regional player in restoring peace and security.

During his visit Al-Sisi held talks with policy-makers in Washington, meeting think tank scholars, Jewish organisation leaders, the American Chamber of Commerce board and several senior officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Additionally, Al-Sisi’s meetings in Capitol Hill saw progress in the relationship between Egypt and Congress which in 2013 suspended military equipment to Cairo following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi.

In Congress, Al-Sisi met House Speaker Paul Ryan who stressed the strategic relationship between Egypt and the US and the need to strengthen ties to counter formidable challenges, particularly in light of successive developments in the Middle East and the world, according to Presidency Spokesman Alaa Youssef.

The president also met Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Pro Tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes and members of the committee.

In the Fox News interview Al-Sisi said his visit to Washington sought to explain Egypt’s vision in fighting terrorism in the region through cooperation with regional and international partners.

“The world needs to speak with one face as we confront terrorism,” Al-Sisi told Fox.

On Russia’s impact in Syria, Al-Sisi said the Obama administration’s absence from playing a constructive role in the region created a void that other powers filled.    

“Russia has interests in Syria and the region,” he said. “And I think they are defending their interests.”

On military and US economic aid to Egypt, Al-Sisi said he “has faith in Trump’s promise” to fully support Egypt.

The issue of human rights in Egypt and jailed US citizen Aya Hegazi were also topics that US officials discussed with the Egyptian president during his visit to Washington.

“The Egyptian government operates within legal bounds to protect national security and stability,” Al-Sisi said when asked by Fox News about Hegazi.

The issue of human rights in Egypt was not absent from Al-Sisi’s talks with American officials, however, details remained behind closed doors.

“I think you will almost never have an American president who does not take a strong position on human rights. It is kind of a large part of what we’re about,” Ambassador Jim Woolsey, a senior fellow at the London Centre for Policy Research, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

“However, there are different ways to raise the issue and to discuss it and to work on it in a cooperative manner and I think President Trump will work very hard on our relations with Egypt. When Egypt needs to criticise us or we need to criticise Egypt… to do it in an often private and sensible way,” Woolsey added.

He added that the meetings with Al-Sisi focused mainly on countering terrorism in the region, a priority for the current US administration.

“The US will do whatever is necessary to help Egypt succeed in counter-terror and counter-militants in Sinai and in other parts of the Middle East as well. There is no point in being hesitant as president Obama was on several occasions in dealing with the threat of terrorism,” Woolsey said.

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