Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence discussed a two-state solution to the centuries-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The assurance was given by Pence to the Egyptian president in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. The four-hour meeting between the two leaders was the opening diplomatic stop on Pence’s first Middle East tour as U.S. vice president.
Jerusalem being officially recognized by the United States as the capital of Israel has not been well received within the Arab sphere of influence or the greater global community. Pence described Sisi’s objection to the change in Jerusalem’s status as “a disagreement between friends.” Pence also stated, “my perception was that he was encouraged by that message.”
Sisi’s presidential office issued an official statement at the conclusion of the talks stating, “(Sisi) noted that a solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will only come through negotiations based on a two-state solution, and Egypt would spare no effort to support this.”
Both parties left the meeting publicly expressing mutual reassurance as a result of the discussion, though agreeing to disagree on the designation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The U.S stands shoulder-to-shoulder w/ Egypt in taking the fight to terrorists across the region. Deep discussions today w/ @AlsisiOfficial on continuing to work w/ Egypt & allies across the region to confront & defeat Islamic terrorism were productive and meaningful. #VPinEgypt pic.twitter.com/xKZirkcnls— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 20, 2018
Other topics such as militant Islam were discussed.
Egypt is currently embroiled in conflict with ISIS- and Al-Qaeda-linked groups in the Sinai region of the country. The Egyptian military and the ISIS group in the Sinai called Wilayat Sinai have been engaged in fierce combat battles for the past few years.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz called Wilayat Sinai, “the most lethal and effective branch of ISIS in the Middle East.”
Video showing the #ISIS attack on al-Arish Airbase in North #Sinai. An UH-60 that has just landed is destroyed with a 9M133 Kornet ATGM. The pilot did not survive. This helicopter was carrying the Defense & Interior Ministers #Egypt pic.twitter.com/mIZMQFrlxG— Arnaud Delalande (@Arn_Del) December 21, 2017
Pence assured Sisi that the United States was committed to militarily defeating Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the region. Pence stated, “we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in Egypt in the fight against terrorism.”
Pence also urged Sisi to release American citizens Mostafa Kassem and Ahmed Etiwy from prison in Egypt. Kassem and Etiwy have both been imprisoned in Egypt since 2013.
The visit to Cairo to meet with Sisi is the first of three scheduled stops on Pence’s first diplomatic tour to the Middle East as U.S. vice president.
Pence is next scheduled to visit Amman, Jordan, to meet with Jordanian leader King Abdullah II. Abdullah is also a staunch critic of Trump’s decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. King Abdullah II and the nation of Jordan are also the custodians of the Al-Aqsa Mosque located at the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) in Jerusalem.
Pence will conclude his trip to the Middle East in Israel. Pence is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, address the Knesset, and visit the Western Wall.