US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, US, April 3, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi will arrive at the White House on April 9 for his second meeting with US President Donald Trump, the White House announced Friday. According to a White House press release, the two leaders “will discuss strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and building on our robust military, economic and counterterrorism cooperation.”
Trump and Sisi “will also discuss developments and shared priorities in the region, including enhancing regional economic integration and addressing ongoing conflicts, and Egypt’s longstanding role as a lynch pin of regional stability,” the White House announced.
The Egyptian president last met Trump at the White House in April 2017. According to Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, “It’s a dramatic change from what we saw in the post-coup Egypt and Obama’s foreign policy.”
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Schanzer said: “The Obama policy was one of isolation and challenging the Sisi regime after the coup because of human rights issues and because of democracy deficits. Right now, it’s a focus primarily on security and on regional cohesion, countering Iran, countering Hamas, and this approach is downplayed the human rights issues and the democracy issues.”
He added: “They’re going to be a lot of people who contest this, who think that it is the wrong approach. And quite frankly, they’re not entirely wrong. What US policy should be is a combination of pursuing stability in the region while also trying to promote human rights and promoting democracy, promoting pluralism in the Middle East.”
Sisi’s visit will take place two weeks after President Trump signed a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but Schanzer said he does not estimate either the Golan proclamation or the US pulling out of Syria would be the main topic on the leader’s agenda.
“I do think though that amidst all of these reports of the possible announcement of the so-called “deal of the century” that Egypt will play a role,” he told the Post. “It’s possible that this is part of it. I don’t know who else will be in these meetings, and how all of this will play out publicly. But of course, Egypt has an important role to play in any peace plan or a regional understanding with regard to the Palestinians.”
In the past few years, Sisi’s Egypt played a roll in mediating between Israel and Hamas, and Schanzer thinks that the situation along Israel’s Gaza Strip border might also be part of the discussion. “Egypt has been a surprisingly good partner for the Israelis in recent years in isolating Hamas, in destroying the tunnels. And a visit right now, amidst all of the challenges associated with the so-called March of Return anniversary – there are more tactical things to discuss as well, like trying to contain these protests and trying to calm the border situation. Egypt has a role to play in all of this and can relieve some of the pressure. But up until now, I don’t know if we’ve had a coordinated approach with the Egyptians.”
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