NEW YORK — US President Barack Obama on Thursday touted the longstanding relationship between the United States and Egypt as a cornerstone of American security policy in the Middle East.
Obama met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meetings. It was the first face-to-face meeting between Obama and el-Sissi, who was elected earlier this year.
Prior to the meeting, Obama said the two leaders planned to discuss a range of security issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Libya, and the Islamic State terrorist group wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.
A former army general, el-Sissi has faced international criticism for his ouster last year of Egypt’s first freely elected president. US-Egypt ties have been strained since the ouster but the US has sought to urge Egypt to pursue a more democratic system.
In June, Secretary of State John Kerry’s met with el-Sissi for the first time, and US officials revealed that $572 million in aid, which had been frozen since October following an Egyptian crackdown on protesters, was released to Egypt after a green light from Congress. It will mainly go to pay existing defense contracts.
US officials said in April they planned to resume some of the annual $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Cairo, including 10 Apache helicopter gunships for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.