United States President Donald Trump warmly welcomed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House on Monday, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade.
Greeting Sisi in the Oval Office, Trump heaped praise on the former general’s leadership and embarked on a charm offensive designed to fix ties strained by revolution and security crackdowns.
The one-on-one meeting between Trump and Sisi, followed by a separate gathering with top aides, showed how intent the new US president is on rebooting the bilateral relationship and building on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September.
“You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Trump told Sisi.
“I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi, he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” Trump added.
The meeting symbolizes an end to years in which the Egyptian leader had been kept at arm’s length by Washington amid rights concerns.
The last time an Egyptian president was at the White House was in 2010, when Hosni Mubarak attended Middle East peace talks alongside Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders.
Within months Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising, which received tacit support from president Barack Obama.
The Obama administration froze military aid to Egypt after then-defense minister Sisi led the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, and a bloody crackdown on his supporters.
Egypt’s key role as the most populous Arab nation meant that the aid was fully reinstated in 2015, but diplomatic relations remained difficult.