Egypt’s President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi meets US President Donald Trump Monday amid protests in Washington from groups condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to invite him to the White House.The White House said before the visit that the new administration’s approach is to handle “sensitive issues” such as human rights in a “private, more discreet way” than previous presidents have done. Yesterday, hundreds of protestors gathered at the Washington monument hoping to bring attention to the thousands of political prisoners languishing in Egyptian prisons.
There has been no official word on Sisi’s specific demands, but expectations include more military aid, attempts to persuade Trump to designate the Muslim Brotherhood – as a terrorist group, and moves to restore the strategic partnership enjoyed by Egypt with the US for more than 30 years.
Former President Barak Obama never invited Sissi to the White House after the Egyptian leader staged a military coup, seizing power from the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi. The Obama administration repeatedly criticised his government over its human rights record and briefly suspended US military aid, which normally runs at $1.3 billion a year.
In contrast, President Trump spoke of having a “good chemistry” with the Egyptian leader when as a Republican nominee, he met Sissi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. A senior White House official was non-committal on what the administration was prepared to do on military aid and the Brotherhood.
Egypt is in the middle of a deep economic crisis; Sisi army is engaged in a tough fight in the Sinai against militants led by a local affiliate of the Daesh militant group and his security forces are conducting a long-term crackdown on dissent, while watching for any signs of public unrest fueled by the soaring cost of living.
Some analysts say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be a possible source of difference between Trump and Sisi. Egypt has for decades been a staunch supporter of the Palestinians’ right to statehood. Sisi reasserted that position when he addressed the Arab summit in Jordan last week, saying a Saudi peace plan adopted by Arab leaders in 2002 remained the basis for a settlement.
The plan provides Arab recognition of Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967, allowing the creation of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.