Egypt’s Sisi heads to U.S. for first time since election

Sisi’s trip to New York follows a period of strained relations with the Obama administration

Shounaz Meky - Al Arabiya News
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Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi will visit the United States on Sunday to attend a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in what is considered to be his first visit as Egypt’s head of state.

Sisi’s trip to New York follows a period of strained relations with the Obama administration following the military-backed ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in 2013.

The visit could signal a change in how Egypt’s transitional phase is perceived on an international level, analysts said.
One expert said although the visit is aimed at attending the U.N. meeting, Sisi’s presence in the United States could indicate more acceptance to a post-Mursi Egypt.

Ammar Ali Hassan, a political analyst, said that the visit would be used by Cairo as validation of Sisi’s rule.

“However, the visit will be endorsed by Egyptian authorities as a complete recognition from the international community of the events that took place on June 30 - that it was a popular revolution backed by the army - and that Sisi is an elected president,” Hassan told Al Arabiya News.

Hassan said the appearance could also downplay arguments by Mursi’s banned Muslim Brotherhood which suggest that much of the world remains reluctant to accept the change of events in Egypt.

“The propaganda Brotherhood leaders use to tell their followers that the world is still hesitant and cautious to deal with Egypt will be proven wrong,” he added.

Although it does not seem likely that Sisi will meet Obama while in the United States, a shift in Washington’s policy towards Egypt was needed, said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East security expert at Georgetown University.

“It seems that President Sisi will not meet with President Obama -- so far, although there should be a meeting,” Sullivan told Al Arabiya News.

Sullivan said it was a “big mistake” for the United States after Mursi’s ouster to refuse to fund all of the $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid that the Obama administration usually sends to Cairo.

“One of the biggest mistakes the U.S. made on Egypt was cutting aid to the Egyptian military, which helped drive the Egyptians into the arms of the Russians. Many in the U.S. want to see much closer relations with Egypt.”

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