First Published: 2017-04-20

US Secretary of Defence meets Egypt's Sisi
Mattis pledges support to Egypt in sharp contrast to Obamas cold shoulder approach over Sisis human rights record.
Middle East Online

Sisi wants to 'strengthen ongoing military cooperation' with US

CAIRO - US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and top brass in Cairo on Thursday, pledging support for the American ally on his first regional tour.

The brief visit, with Mattis later setting off to Israel, came after Sisi hit it off with Trump during a White House meeting earlier this month.

Sisi's visit marked a shift in relations after Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had given the Egyptian leader the cold shoulder for leading the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt following a bloody crackdown on Morsi's supporters.

Trump, however, has set aside criticism of Sisi's human rights record while pledging to maintain support for the key US ally which receives an annual $1.3 billion in military aid.

The meeting "addressed aspects of military and security cooperation between the two countries and ways to further enhance them," the president's office said in a statement.

Sisi told Mattis he wanted to "strengthen the ongoing military cooperation between the two countries," it said.

Mattis in turn "reiterated the US's commitment to reinvigorating these relations and broadening prospects for cooperation," it added.

After meeting Sisi, Mattis held talks with Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi at his headquarters, where he was received with a marching band playing the US national anthem.

"We've always had an open relationship," he told Sobhi.

After the meeting, Mattis participated in a wreath laying ceremony at Cairo's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

He then prepared to fly on to Israel on the next leg of his tour, which started in Saudi Arabia.

In Egypt, the talks touched on the military's counterinsurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, where an Islamic State group affiliate has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

Mattis "affirmed Egypt's pivotal role in the Middle East and commended its counter-terrorism efforts," the president's office said.

The insurgency in the Sinai took off after Morsi's ouster with the Islamic State group increasingly expanding its attacks to other parts of Egypt.

It claimed two church bombings in the cities of Alexandria and Tanta on April 9 that killed 45 people, months after a deadly Cairo church bombing.

On Thursday, the military announced it had killed a top IS cleric in Sinai air strikes, along with 18 other jihadists.

The Pentagon is also concerned with preventing jihadists from crossing Libya's porous border with Egypt and the reported presence of Russian troops in Egypt's western desert, which Cairo has denied.

After Israel, Mattis will return to the Gulf on Saturday for talks in Qatar.

 

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever

Israeli fire neat Gaza border injures five Palestinian

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai

Iraq sentences over 300 people to death for IS links

Syria chemical weapons visit delayed after gunfire

Syria regime shells last jihadist pockets in Damascus

After the war is won, ‘we shall not return’ to Mosul

Saudi Arabia to host cinema test screening with 'Black Panther'

Trump voices support for US pastor jailed in Turkey

Rouhani says Iran will make or buy any weapons it needs

US fears ceding influence to Russia, Iran in Syria

Nationalist Erdogan ally calls for snap Turkey elections

Saudi renews offer to deploy troops to Syria

Kaveh Madani, Iran’s expat eco-warrior who was on too many fronts