Trump says US is 'great friend and ally' to controversial Egyptian President el-Sissi in White House meeting

PHOTO: President Donald Trump shakes hands with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April, 3, 2017. PlayEvan Vucci/AP Photo
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President Donald Trump welcomed Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to the White House today to discuss economic and security matters. This meeting was el-Sissi's first official state visit since he took power through a military coup in 2013.

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In a press conference this afternoon, Trump said he looks "forward to a very long and strong relationship" with the Egyptian president as they work to defeat together ISIS in the Middle East. Later this afternoon, he told reporters "we’ve made great progress today with Egypt, really great progress."

"I just want to say to you, Mr. President, you have a great friend and ally in the United States," Trump said.

El-Sissi has been criticized by human rights organizations for his record of abuses, including imprisoning dissidents, banning protests and outlawing his opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Former President Barack Obama did not invite el-Sissi to the White House, and other Western leaders have spoken out against political repression under the Egyptian president.

This is the first White House visit by an Egyptian head of state since President Mubarak in 2009. The White House would not rule out whether the two leaders plan to discuss human rights.

Trump and el-Sissi have been friendly since they met during the campaign in September, when Trump called el-Sissi a "fantastic guy.”

El-Sissi also praised Trump after their meeting today, expressing his deep appreciation and admiration for Trump’s “unique personality” and praised his tough stance on terrorism.

"Very strongly and very openly, you will find Egypt and myself always behind you in this, in bringing about an effective strategy in counterterrorism," el-Sissi said, with the assistance of an interpreter.

Trump did not answer shouted questions from reporters on the Muslim Brotherhood and the FBI investigation into his campaign’s possible ties with Russia.

In a United Nations Security Council press conference this afternoon, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Trump's visit with President el-Sissi does not mean his administration doesn't care about human rights abuses.

Haley said that in order to reach their counter-terrorism goals, the administration is "going to play with whoever we need to play with."

Trump "didn't say [el-Sissi] was 'fantastic' with human rights," she added.

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