WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will discuss tensions in the Middle East, security, economic reform and human rights in Egypt during a meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House on Tuesday, a senior administration official said.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, January 10, 2019. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
The U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the visit, said the two leaders would also discuss the development of civil society in Egypt and, in a nod to concerns of Vice President Mike Pence, its treatment of religious minorities, including Christians.
Egypt’s parliament has moved to pave the way for Sisi to stay in power until 2034 with constitutional reforms.
Asked whether Trump supported such a move, the official said the administration was encouraging Egypt to develop democratic institutions while being mindful of U.S. security interests.
“The president views the relationship with Egypt, as he does all of our … relationships with foreign countries … through the lens of America First and what serves our interest,” the official said.
Military issues also may be on the agenda. Egypt has reportedly signed a $2 billion deal with Russia to buy more than 20 Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets, as well as weapons for the aircraft.
Asked if the White House would discuss the purchase with the visiting Egyptian leader and whether it could possibly trigger U.S. sanctions, the official cautioned that U.S. law gives the president very little flexibility over sanctions imposed on those who do business with Russian defence sectors.
“Countries that engage in those purchases need to know that we are extremely limited in what we can do to mitigate,” the official said, noting that the United States had already faced similar situations with China, India and Turkey.
The U.S. Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, authorizes sanctions on those who engage in significant transactions with the Russian defence or intelligence sectors. It also deals with sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
“We really would urge countries that wish to maintain and expand their military relationship with the United States to take that legislation very seriously,” the official said.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Alexander; Editing by Tom Brown