The Gaza post|The News of Palestine-Cairo
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met Saturday with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in the Egyptian capital Cairo to discuss strategic cooperation and joint counter-terrorism efforts.
“Sisi stressed the strength of the Egyptian-U.S. relations and their distinguished strategic aspects, urging to enhance all aspects of cooperation between the two sides particularly in the military field,” Egypt’s presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.
He added that Mattis expressed U.S. keenness to promote cooperation with Egypt as a key player to maintain stability and security in the Middle East region, underscoring U.S. support for Egypt’s war against terrorism.
The meeting was attended by Egyptian Defense Minister Sedqi Sobhi, who met with Mattis earlier in the day, as well as a number of senior military officials from both sides.
Talks between Egyptian and U.S. defense ministers discussed a number of topics related to military cooperation, joint military drills and the exchange of expertise in different fields, said Egypt’s military spokesman Tamer al-Refaay in a statement.
Egypt’s ties with the United States deteriorated after the Egyptian military ousted former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 in response to mass protests.
The move has led to the suspension of U.S. military aid to Egypt and the cancellation of the largest joint military exercise between the two countries, known as Bright Star, by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
The bilateral ties improved under the new U.S. administration of Donald Trump, who pledged to resume the annual military aid to the key regional ally.
Egypt and the United States held Bright Star 2017 joint drill in September after eight-year suspension since 2009. Earlier in April they launched the joint naval exercise Eagle Salute 2017 in the waters of the Red Sea.
Cairo annually receives from Washington 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in military and economic aid since it signed the 1979 U.S.-sponsored peace treaty with Israel, the U.S. number one regional ally and the top recipient of U.S. aid.
In August, Washington decided to cut or delay nearly 300 million U.S. dollars in aid to Egypt over concerns about human rights record.
Mattis’ trip to Egypt unveiled his five-day tour in the region including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Kuwait.
The U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement on Friday that Mattis’ trips are meant to “reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to partnerships in the Middle East, West Africa and South Asia.”