Trump welcomes Sisi as part of bilateral reset

President Donald Trump said Monday that the "very much behind" Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a controversial figure who has been widely accused of human-rights abuses by global watchdogs and his political opponents.

In response, El-Sisi told Trump that he would "always have his support and that of the Egyptian people" in his efforts to bring about an "effective strategy for counter-terrorism".

A senior Trump administration official briefed reporters that human rights concerns would be raised at Monday's meeting, but that it would be handled in a "private, more discreet way".

"I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President Sisi", Mr Trump said.

During a brief sit down in front of reporters, President Trump described his relationship with Sisi as "very close", and added that the United States was "very much behind" the controversial world leader.

Donald Trump emphasized mutual security interests during talks with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Through an interpreter, el-Sissi told Trump that he has a "deep appreciation and admiration of your unique personality, especially your standing very strongly in the counterterrorism field".

"The repression in Egypt is, really, unforgivable but the Trump administration is more than happy to do so", he added.

Hundreds of demonstrators were killed and thousands jailed during the accompanying crackdown, prompting Obama to freeze military aid to Egypt-worth roughly a billion dollars a year.

Since the military overthrew Egypt's first post-revolution president, the popularly-elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, Mr el-Sissi has cracked down on political Islamists.

The Egyptian diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Syrian conflict would not be a major focus of the meeting because the Trump administration does not think Egypt is a main player in the crisis.

Sisi has not been invited to visit the White House since he took office in 2013 after a military-backed coup ousted former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.

The two men met back in September, when there appeared to be little prospect of Trump moving into the White House. Egypt fetches some $1.3 billion (1.2 billion euros) in USA military aid per year.

The White House has promised to maintain a "strong and sufficient" level of support, but recently proposed drastic cuts to its worldwide aid budget.

Trump and El-Sisi already demonstrated a certain rapport before the visit.

El-Sisi's resting his hopes on Trump to maintain key US economic support and funding for his military, worth some $1.3 billion a year.

Trump heaped a lot of praise on the Egyptian dictator. "We're gonna be friends for a long, long period of time".

Donald Trump has enthusiastically avowed his support Egyptian president Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, shaking him warmly by the hand at a meeting in the White House.

  • Joanne Flowers