Trump welcomes Egypt's al-Sisi amid questions on rights record

Trump, al-Sisi to meet in White House, discuss war against ISIS.


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

US President Donald Trump will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Washington, for their first meeting since January's elections.

Al-Sisi, the first foreign leader to congratulate Trump following his election victory.

The two leaders are expected to discuss the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as as is the fight against ISIS.

It is not yet clear how Trump will approach the Arab-Israeli conflict, however.

In February, Trump declared that he was not bound to a two-state solution, and would be open to a single state if it meant peace. However, he also called on Israel to "hold back on settlements for a little bit."

A senior administration official said in a briefing that the topic will be handled in a "private, more discreet way."

"We believe it's the most effective way to advance those issues to a favorable outcome."

This stance was slammed by human rights groups.

"Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship," said Sarah Margon, Washington director of Human Rights Watch.

The Obama administration froze military aid to Egypt after then-President Mohamed Morsi was deposed in 2013 by a group led by al-Sisi. This aid was restored in 2015, however, in light of Egypt's role as best armed Arab nation in the Middle East.

The United States gives $1.5 billion annually in aid to Egypt, including $1.3 billion in military aid.

The White House, which recently unveiled a budget that proposes drastic cuts in international aid, has pledged to maintain a "strong and sufficient" level of support for Egypt, without committing to any specific figure.

The new Republican administration is also considering whether to designate Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group as a terror organization.

Trump "is interested in hearing president al-Sisi's views on the Muslim Brotherhood issue," the senior administration official said.

"We, along with a number of countries, have some concerns about various activities that the Muslim Brotherhood has conducted in the region. But that's going to be a discussion that will unfold between us and Egypt."