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Trump Signals Big Break From Obama’s Policy With Key Arab Ally

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump will not press Egyptian President Fattah Al-Sisi on human rights violations during his upcoming visit to Washington, the White House indicated Friday, in a major break from former President Barack Obama’s policy.

Both countries emphasized that the upcoming meeting would instead focus on economic and security issues. Trump’s aides indicated to The New York Times he would press Sisi privately on human rights, but does not wish to derail the talks. Egypt is a key U.S. ally in the Arab world and a partner with the U.S. in fighting the Islamic State.

“President Al Sisi has taken a number of bold steps since becoming president in 2014, including calling for the reform and moderation of Islamic discourse and initiating courageous and historic economic reforms,” The White House said in a statement.

The Obama administration, conversely, sent a report to Congress in 2015 saying that “the overall trajectory of rights and democracy has been negative” in Egypt, and that “except in rare instances, police and security forces have not been held accountable for alleged human rights violations.”

After Sisi seized power in a 2013 military coup, the Obama administration refused to invite him to the White House.

Egypt receives more than a billion dollars in U.S. aid annually as a measure to shore up its support for Israel. Both Egypt and Israel are engaged in combatting ISIS in the Sinai peninsula.”The United States is fully committed to helping Egypt take the necessary steps to defeat Sinai-based terrorist groups,” the White house said.

Sisi will likely seek a terrorist designation for the Muslim brotherhood from the Trump administration, which he views as an existential threat to his power. Some members of the Trump administration have indicated they may support such a policy.

The Trump administration also announced Wednesday it would drop human rights concerns with the Kingdom of Bahrain, and continue with a sale of F-16 fighter aircraft. The decision also reaffirmed Trump’s stated position to consider security interests before all else.

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