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Sisi and Trump prepping new era in US-Egypt relations

Sisi and Trump previously met in September 2016 [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 April, 2017

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The Obama administration never extended an invitation to Sisi to visit Washington DC. However, with Trump in power the Egyptian President appears to have an ally in the White House
Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi left Cairo on Saturday for Washington where he is set to meet with US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The event will mark Sisi's first state visit to the US since becoming president in 2014. No invite was ever extended by the Obama administration with whom Sisi experienced frosty relations. 

Figures accompanying Sisi on the visit include Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, Trade Minister Tareq Qabeel, and Director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Major General Kahled Fawzi.

Allies in the making

According to official statements put out by the US and Egyptian governments, Sisi's visit is aimed at strengthening economic and trade relations between the two states, and increasing US investment into Egypt.

In addition to holding talks with White House officials, Sisi is also set to meet with members of the American chamber of commerce, and the heads of major US companies to discuss potential investment opportunities. 

Talks will also be held with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as the Egyptian President looks to secure further financial aid to support a floundering economy.

Sisi previously met with Trump in September, before the billionaire real estate tycoon was elected to the White House. 

Frosty relations with Obama

Sisi appears to have established a closer relationship with Trump, than with his predecessor in the White House Barack Obama.

Obama criticised the Egyptian President's clampdown on protestors and civil freedoms in the aftermath of seizing power following a 2013 military coup that saw the imprisonment of Mohamad Morsi - the Muslim Brotherhood leader and Egypt's first democratically elected president.

"President-elect Trump has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and what is taking place in Egypt," said Sisi, following his September 2016 meeting with Trump. 

For his part Trump has called Sisi "a fantastic guy", commenting on the Egyptian President's rule: 

"He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it."

Problems at home, objections in DC

In addition to facing dire economic straits, Egypt - which is part of the US-lead international coalition of states battling the Islamic State group - is in the midst of a bloody war with IS-affiliated armed groups in the Sinai, which have killed hundreds of security officials and carried out campaigns targeting the country's Coptic Christian minority.

During the Washington visit, Sisi is set to request Washington's help in securing advanced military hardware, partly in order to tackle the Sinai insurgency, according to anonymous Western officials who spoke to AFP.

Meanwhile, ahead of the expected meeting between the heads of state, anti-Sisi campaigners have put up posters on the streets of Washington DC aimed at drawing attention to the thousands of political prisoners currently incarcerated in Egyptian jails.

Online, the campaign - organised by Mohamed Soltan, the son of jailed Muslim Brotherhood figure Salah Soltan - is trending under the hashtag #FreedomFirst.

Soltan, an American citizen, spent nearly two years in an Egyptian jail for his role in demonstrations agains the coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi. He was released in 2015 following a lengthy hunger strike, and requests from the Obama administration, and notably visited the White House before Trump took office. 

Figures within the Trump administration are currently pushing to have the Muslim Brotherhood re-designated a terrorist movement, with talks on the matter likely to take place when Trump and Sisi meet.

Meanwhile, other groups have expressed support for Sisi ahead of his visit. These include the General Union of Copts for the Homeland. The union's American branch is said to have provided a free bus service to transport Egyptian American citizens to the White House on Monday to express support for Sisi.

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