File: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi was the first head of state, and the first African leader, to call new US President Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory.
CAIRO - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi was the first head of state, and the first African leader, to call new US President Donald Trump to congratulate him on his victory.
This was according to Egypt’s Ambassador to South Africa, Sherif Issa, who told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview: “Trump’s win will strengthen Egypt’s relations with the US. The last time Sisi was in New York in September he met with Trump and they had a long discussion over a number of mutual interests.”
The two met on the sidelines of the 71st debate of the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are optimistic in regards to the new administration as we believe that the goals of both countries can be simultaneously advanced as we work together,” Issa told ANA.
“One of the major problems facing both our countries is the threat of terrorism, especially from the Islamic State (IS). This terrorist group is a problem for the entire international community and the US is very concerned about this issue.
“We in Egypt are also facing continual attacks on our security forces in the Sinai Peninsula from terror organisations related to Al Qaeda and the IS.
“The members of these groups come from abroad and from the region and some of their attacks have also targeted senior Egyptian military and political figures.
“Egypt has been calling for an international coalition to fight this scourge for the last three years and Trump has been adamant that there would be cooperation on the terrorism front,” said Issa.
The ambassador explained that the US had been looking for a reliable partner in the Middle East and Cairo believed that Egypt could provide a reliable and long-term partner.
“We are a known player and the main player in the region,” Issa told ANA.
Another issue was the continuation of military and financial aid to Egypt, with Cairo being the third largest recipient of US foreign aid. Trump had previously commented that if he got into power, there would be a cut in foreign aid.
However, Issa was not worried as he believed pragmatic interests would force the new US administration to look into the advantages of having Egypt on board in the global fight against terrorism, as Cairo had proved its credentials.
The ambassador explained that Egypt was trying to rebuild its economy after the last few years of tumultuous upheaval in the country which has seen tourism, a major source of Cairo’s GDP, plummet.
In another point of contention, many Arabs and Muslims have been critical of Trump’s remarks to deport Muslims from the US and prevent others from entering but this wasn’t an issue which concerned Issa.
“I don’t believe Trump is anti-Muslim in general, but anti-extremist Muslims who are using terrorism, under the guise of religion, to further their agenda. The same as we are against such extremists,” he told ANA.
Furthermore, the issue of torture should not be problematic between Washington and Cairo.
International rights groups, and Egyptian human rights organisations, have consistently slammed Egypt’s arrest of political opponents, journalists and NGOs working with civil society to advance human rights – and their reported abuse during detention.
Trump, for his part, has openly advocated the use of water boarding to extract information from political prisoners and alleged terrorists. He has also supported Guantanamo Bay remaining open.
In a presidential statement released on Wednesday, Sisi congratulated Trump on his win and said he looked forward to working with him.
“Due to the strong strategic relations between Egypt and the US which have lasted for a very long time and believing in the rather important role of these relations in supporting stability in the Middle East region and Africa, Egypt is looking forward to a new boost in bilateral relations under the new Trump administration,” the statement read.