Egyptian President fattah al-Sisi has made his first visit to the White House on Monday, marking a moment of true historical significance in the relations between the US and Egypt.
After years left in the cold by US President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi was welcomed inside the White House for the first time on Monday to the warm embrace of the Trump administration.
The Egyptian leader found common ground with America's new president, Donald Trump, from their very first conversations during the White House transition period. Sisi was the first Arab leader to call Trump with congratulations on his victory, and they together coordinated against an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Israel for its settlement activity.
But their personal rapport was on display in the Oval Office for the first time, where Trump offered glowing praise of Sisi for his fight against a growing scourge of terrorism.
"We agree on so many things," Trump said. "I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President al-Sisi."
According to senior administration officials, two and a half hours of conversation– in the Oval, the Cabinet Room and over a private lunch– were to focus on the threat of terrorism. But Trump also had plans to address the longstanding Israeli-Arab conflict.
"You will find me supporting you very strongly and very earnestly in finding a solution to the problem of the century," Trump said.
Sisi came to Washington with several specific requests. He wants the Trump administration to support continued foreign military financing to Egypt, despite its general predisposition to cut foreign aid; Cash flow financing for its military acquisitions; and an official American designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Egyptians democratically elected the Muslim Brotherhood into government following a revolution against longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011. A military overthrow of the Brotherhood, which installed Sisi into power, left a schism between the former Obama administration and the current leadership.
"He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation," Trump said.
"We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has believe me, backing, and we have strong backing."
Trump made no mention of human rights in his appearances with Sisi, who has been accused of imprisoning thousands of political prisoners by humanitarian organizations. The two leaders chose not to hold a press conference.
Sisi said he appreciated that Trump has been "standing very strong... to counter this evil ideology." He noted it was his first visit to Washington since his own inauguration as president.
Egypt has long been one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East, receiving $1.3 billion in US military aid annually. It is fighting an Islamist insurgency in Sinai in which hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed.
The Persian Gulf-based Al Khaleej Online reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah we planning during their meetings with US President Donald Trump this week to present the principles of a framework agreement between Israel and the the Palestinians.
According to the report, quoted on Israel Radio, Trump is then expected to deliver his response to the proposals when he meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later in the month in Washington.
The report said that the Americans hope to hold an international summit in September that would then launch renewed negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The last round ended in failure in 2014.
The report said that in order to bring the Palestinians to the table, Israel will have to declare a settlement freeze, and release the last batch of convicted terrorist prisoners not released during the failed 2015 talks brokered by then-US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Al Khaleej Online's piece mirrors a similar report from The Jerusalem Post published last week, in which Israeli sources previewed Trump's plans for a summit of Arab and Israeli leaders in Washington geared toward jumpstarting the peace process. Sources said the Israelis would have to freeze settlement activity outside of existing settlement blocs, and that the Trump administration hoped the summit would take place some time this summer.