Days before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Middle East, senior officials in Trump’s administration used numerous superlatives to describe the U.S. partnership with Egypt, in an attempt to smooth things over with Egypt, the Washington post stated on Saturday.
Pence had originally planned to visit Israel first, but he rearranged his schedule and will now travel first to Cairo, where he is expected to have a bilateral meeting with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Wednesday, December 20.
The change was made on Thursday, in the wake of the Jerusalem decision, the vice president felt it was important to address the entire Muslim and Arab world — and Egypt was a natural venue, according to the Washington Post.
Egypt Today speaks to political science professor and expert Tarek Fahmy on the significance of Pence’s visit to Egypt following Trump’s decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Pence’s visit to Cairo comes at a “sensitive time,” Fahmy said, adding that Egypt shouldn’t cut ties and communications with the U.S. for several reasons; whereas Egypt’s stance against Trump’s Jerusalem decision was already revealed plainly in the refusal of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam and Pope Tawadros of Alexandria to meet with Pence, the diplomatic ties with US should always be reserved.
President Sisi is not seeking tense relations with the U.S. however at the same time, Fahmy expect that Sisi will deliver strong deterrents and condemnation against the Jerusalem decision during his meeting with Pence.
Egypt is the only Arab country that has the competence to open up with all parties; Palestine, Israel, U.S., Arab and European countries. Sisi is the only president who can bring the three countries; America, Israel and Palestine to one table and that’s why the U.S. is working hard to preserve their partnership with Egypt.
When asked about Pence’s rearranged schedule, traveling to Cairo before Israel, Fahmy answered that it’s an intelligent move for the Trump administration to get acquainted with Cairo’s mood before heading to Israel.
Pence stated earlier that the goal of his visit is to meet with religious leaders in Egypt to discuss ways of addressing the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities across the Middle East.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb announced he would not meet with Pence, according to a statement issued by Al-Azhar Sheikhdom on Friday.
“How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it,” Al-Tayeb expressed in the statement, alluding to US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Grand Imam called on Trump to overturn his illegitimate and illegal decision.
Likewise, Pope Tawadros of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark refused to meet with Pence, announced by Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church in a Saturday statement.
“In light of the recent decision taken by the U.S. administration regarding Jerusalem, which was issued at an inappropriate time and made in disregard to the sentiments of millions of Arabs, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church apologizes that it will not receive Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, during his visit slated for December,” the statement read.
On December 12, an American security delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport to inspect the airport before Vice President Pence visit on December 20.
The delegation included a number of U.S. officials, who, in coordination with Egyptian security officials, will prepare the entire visit and check all necessary facilities before the arrival of the vice president, said a security source at the airport.