USA defense secretary looks to rebuild trust in Egypt visit

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 20, 2017

TEL AVIV U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday he was optimistic about improving military ties with Egypt after talks in Cairo with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, following a period of strain under the Obama administration.

The visit came after a meeting between Sisi and his US counterpart Donald Trump at White House earlier this month.

A statement from Sisi's office said Egypt was keen "on further advancing bilateral relations under the new American administration".

I want you to know, in case there is any doubt, Trump said after receiving him in the White House (where Obama never gave access to the Egyptian president), that we support the fantastic work that President El Sisi has done in a very hard situation.

Trump, however, has set aside criticism of Sisi's human rights record while pledging to maintain support for the key United States ally which receives an annual $1.3 billion in military aid.

After meeting Sisi, Mattis held talks with Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi at his headquarters, where he was received with a marching band playing the USA national anthem.

Mattis expressed Washington's desire to push cooperation between the two countries to new levels in order to overcome unprecedented challenges facing the region. He is also scheduled to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

The Egyptian president focused on the pressing need to dry up funding for terrorism and convey a strict message to countries that support terror groups or supply them with fighters and/or arms.

The insurgency in the Sinai took off after Morsi's ouster with ISIS increasingly expanding its attacks to other parts of Egypt.

Mattis started his tour of the region in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday where he met King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as well as Interior Minister Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef.

Trump has said that the U.S. "strongly condemns the terrorist attack" in Egypt on 9 April, in which a church in Alexandria and one in Tanta were hit by suicide bombers.

The Pentagon is also concerned with preventing extremists from crossing Libya's porous border with Egypt and the reported presence of Russian troops in Egypt's western desert, which Cairo has denied. After Israel, he will return to the Gulf on Saturday for talks in Qatar.

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