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What Sisi-Trump meeting means for US-Egyptian relations

US President Donald Trump met with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss bilateral relations and Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts in New York recently.
U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC18F8550D40

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Sept. 23 with US President Donald Trump in New York, on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.

The presidents discussed several issues during their meeting, namely anti-terrorism efforts. Trump commended the successful counterterrorism efforts of Egypt. They also discussed bilateral economic cooperation between Egypt and the United States, and how to encourage investment by American companies in Egypt. Other regional issues related to Libya, Syria and Yemen were tackled. In addition to these topics, the Palestinian cause and ways to resume the peace process were discussed along with the developments in Sudan.

Trump said that Sisi "has succeeded in establishing authority and security in the country since his election.” He added, “He’s brought order. Before he was here, there was very little order. There was chaos.” 

Sisi stated that the meetings with Trump show how both countries greatly understand each other

Spokesman for the Egyptian presidency Bassam Radi said in a Sept. 24 statement that Trump stressed the US need to boost bilateral cooperation and develop strategic negotiations in the next phase. 

On Sept. 25, Radi told the Egyptian Channel 1 from New York that the meetings between Sisi and Trump focused on praising the achievements witnessed in Egypt under Sisi over the past few years in terms of restoring security and political order, development and economic reform. The meeting showed that the US-Egypt ties are in their best state, according to Radi.

Tarek Fahmy, political science professor at the University of Cairo, told Al-Monitor, “The fact that the US and Egyptian presidents insisted on meeting each other affirms how special the ties between both countries are. This shows how interested the United States is in keeping ties with Egypt."

He said, “Trump conveyed two messages through this meeting. The first message is that the US administration is keen on its relationship with Egypt under the Sisi presidency. The other message is emphasizing Egypt’s role within the US strategy [to eradicate terrorism in the region], especially since the country is key in the region and should get great support.”

Fahmy added, “The most important part of this meeting is not praise, it is the fact that it introduced a new era in strategic discourse between the two countries as it addresses topics where the two countries do not share the same opinion like the Palestinian cause. It also paves the way for military, strategic and economic cooperation.”

The United States and Egypt share strong ties. At the political level, the United States has announced its support for the revolution of Jan. 25, 2011. At the economic level, Egypt is 52nd on the list of the most important US economic partners. It is the fourth-largest country in the region in terms of US exports to the Middle East. The United States tops the list of countries investing in Egypt. When it comes to military cooperation, according to the State Information Service, it exists on several levels like the sales of arms, the sharing of military technology and shared military drills.

Former Assistant Foreign Minister Mohamed Hijazi told Nile News as part of its “Hamzat Wassel” program on Sept. 24 that the fact that Trump chose Sisi to meet with out of all the world’s presidents present shows Egypt’s status and the mutual respect between both presidents. He clarified that the strategic ties between the United States and Egypt are developing across time and that the United States views Egypt as an element of security and stability in the region. 

Tareq al-Khawli, secretary-general of the parliamentary Foreign Relations Committee, told Al-Monitor, “The number of meetings between the Egyptian and US presidents and their insistence on maintaining dialogue is proof that they agree on many issues especially since each praised the performance of the other during this meeting.”

The meeting in New York is the eighth between Sisi and Trump. The two met in September 2016, April 2017, May 2017 and then again in September 2017. Another meeting was held in September 2018, while the two sat together in April of this year and in August. 

Khawli added, “The public part of the meeting does not involve any decisions. I think that the meetings behind the scenes involve decisions on what is happening in the Arab world and the tensions in the Arab Gulf. They also entail discussions on the situation in Yemen and the Palestinian cause.”

He concluded, “What we need to add to these good ties now is more cooperation from both countries in order to find solutions to the problems of the Arab region, which is still a pending issue, in addition to attracting more US investments.”

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