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US Defense Secretary Mattis Pledges Support for Egypt’s Sisi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) welcomes US Defense Secretary James Mattis at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on Thursday, vowing to uphold support for the American ally on his first regional tour.

Sisi’s visit Washington in April marked a shift in relations after US President Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had given the Egyptian leader the cold shoulder for leading the military overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.Obama had temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt following a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

Trump, however, pledged 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,” Sisi’s presidential office said in a statement.

Sisi told Mattis he wanted to “strengthen the ongoing military cooperation between the two countries,” the statement added.

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 Defense 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. Earlier this week, Mattis had visited Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Middle Eastern tour.

In Egypt, the talks touched on the military’s counterinsurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, where a terror ISIS 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 ISIS 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.