US President Donald Trump praised his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as a “great president” on Tuesday.
Egypt’s parliament has proposed constitutional reforms aimed at allowing Sisi to remain in power until 2034, which senior US lawmakers and advocacy groups have criticized.
Asked if he backed the efforts to allow Sisi to potentially stay in power for 15 more years, Trump told reporters: “I think he’s doing a great job. I don’t know about the effort, I can just tell you he is doing a great job ... great president.”
Sisi is a former general who came to power after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Sisi was elected the following year.
Praising relationship with Egypt
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation, is of strategic importance to the United States because of its peace treaty with Israel and control of the Suez Canal, a vital waterway for global commerce as well as the US military. The US Congress has set aside $1.4 billion in aid to Egypt in recent years.
While there continues to be support for such aid, US lawmakers have voiced deep concerns about Egypt’s reported signing of a $2 billion deal with Russia to buy more than 20 Sukhoi SU-35 fighter jets and weapons for the aircraft.
Trump did not answer a question about Egypt’s planned Russian arms purchase, which could expose the country to US sanctions. He said “a lot of progress has been made ... in terms of terrorism and other things with Egypt.”
“We’ve never had a better relationship, Egypt and the United States, than we do right now,” Trump added as the two men spoke to reporters before meeting in the White House Oval Office.
“All the credit goes to you, Mister President,” Sisi responded through an interpreter. “Thank you very much for your support on all fronts.”
The White House said in a statement that Trump and Sisi discussed water issues. “These complex issues must be addressed through negotiations and with respect for international best practices,” the statement said.
The statement did not refer to a specific water issue, but Egypt has criticized a dam Ethiopia is building on the River Nile, saying it could restrict waters coming from Ethiopia’s highlands, through the deserts of Sudan, to Egyptian fields and reservoirs.