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Sunday, 13 January 2019

Pompeo touts America as “a force for good” in the Middle East in Cairo speech

In landmark Cairo speech, US SecState Mike Pompeo touts America as “a force for good” in the Middle East: America is committed to its “traditional role as a force for good” in the Middle East under US President Donald Trump after years of being “absent too much,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo on Thursday (watch, runtime: 25:17). The speech came as part of a Mideast tour in which Pompeo aimed to “[reassure] America’s partners that withdrawing troops from Syria does not mean Washington is abandoning the region,” the AP notes. The speech has been widely controversial, with some in the US accusing Pompeo of “misreading history and camouflaging Trump’s own desire to reduce U.S. commitments in the region,” Reuters says.

Pompeo says Egypt is “strategic partner,” praises advancement of religious freedoms: Earning much less digital ink was Pompeo’s praise for Egypt’s anti-terror efforts in Sinai and his assertion that Egypt and the US have a strategic partnership. “As we seek an even stronger partnership with Egypt, we encourage President Sisi to unleash the creative energy of Egypt’s people, unfetter the economy, and promote [an] … open exchange of ideas. The progress made to date can continue.” Pompeo also lauded the advancement of religious freedom in Egypt, which on he stressed during a separate visit to the recently inaugurated cathedral in the new administrative capital.

Pompeo’s speech also took not-so-veiled shots at former US President Barack Obama, the New York Times writes, “painting a picture of a Middle East cast into chaos” by The Donald’s predecessor — a region that can “only be rescued by crushing Iran.” The speech is being cast as an answer to Obama’s landmark speech at Cairo University a decade ago.

El Sisi, Shoukry meet Pompeo to talk security, cooperation: Pompeo met with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Thursday to discuss terrorism and security, among other topics, Ittihadiya said in a statement. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had a separate sit-down Pompeo during which the two agreed to set up 2+2 meetings between the US and Egypt, the Foreign Ministry said.

Watch the Shoukry-Pompeo presser after their meeting (watch, runtime: 16:52) or read the full transcript of their statements, courtesy the State Department.

Egyptian and US defense officials also inked on Friday an agreement to step up military cooperation ahead of Pompeo’s visit, according to a statement from the US embassy in Cairo. The agreement “opens a new chapter in cooperation,” assistant Defense Minister Mohamed El Keshky said.

Pompeo’s speech led the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press over the weekend, prompting an avalanche of coverage, including from the Financial Times’ Heba Saleh, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and the Times of Israel.

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