WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump yesterday praised the “great job” he said is being done by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. “I think he is doing a great job,” Trump said as he sat down for talks with Sisi in the White House. “We have never had a better relationship between Egypt and United States than we do right now.” Egypt is one of the biggest US strategic partners – an Arab country that made peace with top US ally Israel 40 years ago and a major recipient of US aid.

Trump also told reporters that the two had important things to discuss about military issues and trade. The US government and US lawmakers are particularly concerned about Egypt’s reported signing of a $2 billion deal with Russia to buy more than 20 Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets as well as weapons for the aircraft.

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump (right) shakes hands during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in the Oval Office at the White House yesterday. – AFP

In a letter released on Monday, key senators told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo there was strong support for the security relationship with Egypt but urged him to convey their concerns about democratic governance, political freedom, economic reforms and fundamental human rights in the country. “A strong and sustainable US-Egypt strategic partnership is vital for both countries but it requires Egypt to make a tangible effort to make those reforms,” the letter, signed by the Republican chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as 15 other senators.

Later this month, Egyptians are expected to take part in a referendum that could see Sisi extend his rule beyond the end of his second term in 2022. Constitutional amendments would also increase the military’s political role and bring the judiciary under Sisi’s control. Ahead of Sisi’s meeting with Trump, Human Rights Watch urged the US Congress to pressure Sisi, saying the referendum could “institutionalize authoritarianism”. – Agencies