US President Donald Trump on Monday gave backing to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi amid protests against his rule at home.
“Everybody has demonstrations. Even your best friend in the whole world, President Obama, he had a lot of demonstrations,” Trump told reporters as he met Sisi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“No, I'm not -- I'm not concerned with it. Egypt has a great leader. He's highly respected. He's brought order. Before he was here, there was very little order. There was chaos. And so I'm not worried about that at all,” he added.
Sisi, asked about the demonstrations, replied, “Let me say that you will always find something like this in our region, especially with political Islam. There have been efforts that have been put forth for many years to make sure that this political Islam is having a role on the political arena.”
“I want you to rest assured that, especially in Egypt, the public opinion and the people themselves are refusing this kind of political Islam to Egypt. They have demonstrated their refusal before, and they refuse those to have control on the country for only one year,” he added.
In a rare show of dissent, hundreds of Egyptians poured through the streets of Cairo on the weekend, chanting slogans including "Leave, Sisi!" and demanding the "fall of the regime".
At least 74 people were arrested after clashes between the crowds and police in the capital.
Sisi led the military ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and won back-to-back landslide elections after running virtually unopposed.
In April, Egypt's parliament overwhelmingly approved constitutional amendments allowing Sisi to stay in power until 2030.
Under Sisi’s rule, authorities have launched a broad crackdown on dissidents, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed and designated a terrorist organization in Egypt in December of 2013.
US-Egypt ties were strained under the Obama administration, which suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of Morsi, before releasing it two years later.
Following the election of Trump, ties improved as Sisi praised Trump and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.