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

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday praised United States President-elect Donald Trump and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration, AFP reported, citing an interview the Egyptian President gave to Portuguese media.

"Personally I respect and appreciate" Trump, Sisi was quoted as having told Portuguese news agency LUSA.

"I believe that President-elect Trump will be more rigorously engaged with the issues of the region," he added.

"As a matter of fact 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," Sisi pointed out, adding, "That is why I am looking forward, and I am expecting more support and more reinforcement of our bilateral relations".

Sisi had strained relations with outgoing President Barack Obama's administration. In 2013, shortly after Sisi and the Egyptian army which he headed at the time ousted then-Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, Obama suspended American military aid to Egypt. He released the aid two years later, in 2015.

American law forbids sending aid to countries where a democratic government was deposed by a military coup, though Washington has never qualified Morsi’s ouster as a "coup" and had been cautious about doing so, choosing only to condemn the violence in the country.

Things are different with Trump, however, as his tough-on-terrorism rhetoric has appeal among Egyptian officials as the country continues to face a jihadist insurgency that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

Sisi, who had met Trump in September in New York, downplayed Trump's calls to ban or extremely vet Muslims entering the United States, according to AFP.

"We have got to draw a distinction between the rhetoric that takes place within presidential campaigns and the real and actual administration of a country after the inauguration of a president," he said.