Ahead of Monday’s meeting, senior US officials had said the issue of human rights violations in Egypt would not be addressed publicly, drawing condemnation by rights groups and campaigners protesting against Sisi’s visit.
“I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President Sisi; he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation,” Trump said.
Egypt’s President Sisi to meet Donald Trump
For his part, Sisi said he appreciated that Trump has been “standing very strong … to counter this evil ideology”.
Egypt is battling an internal conflict in Sinai, and hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed fighting armed groups.
Obama temporarily halted military aid to Egypt shortly after Sisi led the overthrow of democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, in 2013. His administration also repeatedly criticised the Egyptian government’s crackdown on political opponents.
“Sisi believes such a visit to the Oval Office will enhance his legitimacy, which has been a question of doubt because of the way he took over power through a bloody coup d’etat.”
Since the July 2013 coup, a police crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood – which maintains it is peaceful but has been designated by Egypt’s government as a “terrorist” group – has left hundreds dead and tens of thousands in jail.
Human rights groups estimate that at least 40,000 political prisoners have been detained by Sisi’s government.
“Inviting Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch, said before the meeting.
“I don’t think [overall] it will be addressed because I think the Trump administration is for these types of policies that incarcerate ‘Islamists’ in a place like Egypt and other activists who have been against the Sisi government,” Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said.
“At the end of the day, the US administration, including under Obama and [George W.] Bush, would not make Egypt an enemy because of human rights – if anything, human rights have always been sidelined in favour of security and other cooperations between the US and Egypt. In fact, between the US and most totalitarian regimes in the Middle East, state interest and security has always trumped human rights.”
Egypt has been negotiating billions of dollars in aid from various lenders to help revive an economy hit by political upheaval since a 2011 revolt and to ease a dollar shortage that has crippled imports, drove away foreign investors and hampered its recovery.
The second tranche of a $3bn loan from the World Bank was disbursed to Egypt last month.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies