Cairo International Airport
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good evening, everybody. We just completed a very productive, positive, and extensive discussion on a broad range of issues with President Al Sisi. And I can’t help but marvel at the strength of the relationship that President Trump and President Al Sisi have forged, after years where our two countries were drifting apart. In the last year, I truly believe because of President Trump’s leadership and the relationship he’s developed with President Al Sisi, that the relationship, the collaboration between the United States and Egypt has never been stronger.
But we spoke today on a number of issues, about how we might work in even greater common cause. And I will leave Egypt very encouraged by the conversations and even more grateful for the strong, strategic partnership that the United States enjoys with Egypt.
We spoke most significantly about our efforts to combat terrorism. Egypt has been beset by terrorist attacks over the last year that have been brought to places of worship, from Coptic Christian churches to, last November, more than 300 people were killed in an attack on a mosque in the midst of worship.
The United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in their fight against terrorism in this country, and we will continue to collaborate with Egypt in taking the fight to terrorists across the region. We’ve made extraordinary progress in the fight against ISIS over the last year. Our military, our coalition forces, working closely with Iraq, have literally driven ISIS out of Iraq. We have overtaken the so-called capital of their caliphate in Raqqa, and we’re continuing to lead and lean into that fight.
And the deep discussions today with President Al Sisi about how we might continue together to work with Egypt and other allies across the region to confront and to defeat Islamic terrorism across this region and across the world were productive and meaningful.
We also raised a number of other issues on the global stage. We spoke about the priority President Trump has placed on isolating North Korea economically and diplomatically. We spoke with President Al Sisi about how important it would be for them to discontinue any diplomatic connection to North Korea. And he received that well, and we’re very hopeful to see Egypt take action in the days ahead to join other nations that are standing with the United States and with nations across the world to isolate North Korea.
We also spoke about the importance of religious freedom — a great priority for the people of the United States of America — and urged President Al Sisi on in his commitment to promote religious diversity and the respect for all religious viewpoints here in Egypt.
We also spoke about the need for a reform — reform legislation regarding NGOs, the impact on Americans employed by NGOs in this country. And we had a productive and constructive conversation about that.
And, lastly, I raised specifically the situation for two Americans who are currently being held, imprisoned here in Egypt — Ahmed Etwiy and Mustafa Kassem — who have been imprisoned here since 2013. And President Al Sisi assured me that he would give that very serious attention in both cases. I told him we’d like to see those American citizens restored to their families and restored to our country, even as they deal with the necessary reforms in the NGO.
Lastly, we had a discussion about the commitment of the United States to the peace process between Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. We heard President Al Sisi — he said to me what he said publicly about a disagreement between friends over our decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But I assured him that, even as President Trump made that decision — a decision that I will reaffirm in Jordan and reaffirm in Israel before the end of this trip — that we’ll also reaffirm what President Trump also said: that we’re absolutely committed to preserving the status quo with regard to holy sites in Jerusalem; that we have come to no final resolution about boundaries or other issues that are going to be negotiated between the parties. And if the parties agree, I reminded President Al Sisi that President Trump said that, if the parties agree, we will support a two-state solution.
My perception was that he was encouraged by that message. I told him I would be delivering that message in Jordan, delivering that message in Israel, as well.
The United States of America is deeply committed to restarting the peace process in the Middle East. President Trump believes that, by removing the long, contentious issue about the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital, that we will be able to return to those matters that can be negotiated between the parties. And I conveyed that message to President Al Sisi.
But, ultimately, this was a discussion between friends and partners and allies. We ended the evening with a memorable dinner at the presidential palace. And I leave here with gratitude to President Al Sisi for his hospitality and with a great, great sense of the bond that President Trump and President Al Sisi have forged to the benefit, I believe, of the security and the prosperity of both our people.
Q Mr. Vice President, you spoke of terrorism and counterterrorism being obviously a very big part of the brief here. Do you know — anything you can share about what’s happening in Kabul with the attack on the Intercon?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’ve been briefed about the attack that’s taken place in Kabul. We’ll be monitoring that. And if we have more to say on that, we’ll say it at the next stop.
Q Mr. President, did you talk about Syria? Did you discuss with President Al Sisi the situation in Syria?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We spoke at great length about issues impacting the entire region. I think President Al Sisi is very grateful for the efforts the United States has made and our armed forces have made in the region to confront ISIS and to defeat ISIS. And we also talked about the need to work in close collaboration as we move forward, whether it be in Syria, whether it be in Libya, or other countries across the region. And I assured him that we would be working very closely with our partner here in Egypt as we forge that future together.
Q Mr. Vice President, as you know, there are more than two Americans being held in prison here in Egypt. Did you press him on the others, as well? And was he receptive? And, obviously, there’s a lot more than Americans being imprisoned here over —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: President Al Sisi told me that he would give personal attention to the issue of detained Americans. I mentioned two Americans in particular, but I also raised the broader issue of American citizens who are detained here in Egypt. We’d like to see our people come home. I made that clear to him. And he assured me that he would give the matter his personal attention.
Q Do you think that they were fairly detained? Are you concerned about them being imprisoned in the first place?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, in the case of the two individuals that I mentioned, they were detained prior to when President Al Sisi took office. They were detained in the midst of people being arrested in wider protests. And we truly believe that justice demands that those Americans be permitted to come home. And I made that case very strongly to President Al Sisi.
Q Mr. Vice President, did you raise human rights issues, press freedom issues, or LGBT rights issues with the President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We talked about the importance of respecting diversity in communities; the importance of respecting religious diversity in communities. And encompassed in that is human rights of all the people of Egypt.
I must tell you that President Al Sisi said to me again that his dedication is to all of the people of Egypt. And he has an aspiration to continue to move this country toward a greater respect for the rich diversity of all of its people. And we encouraged him in that, and told him that the opportunity to build and strengthen the relationship with the people of the United States would be greatly enhanced as he continued to advance those reforms in this country.
Q Mr. Vice President, can this trip advance Middle East peace if you’re not going to meet the Palestinian leader?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’m truly honored to be able to be here in Egypt meeting with President Al Sisi, to meet with King Abdullah in Jordan tomorrow — two leaders in the Arab world — and then to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu when we arrive in Israel.
And my message to each of them is that we are partners, we are strategic partners; that nothing has changed; and that we are absolutely committed to building a partnership for security, confronting terrorism together, but also finding ways that we can advance the peace process.
And I hope that my message here, with President Al Sisi, and in Jordan tomorrow and in Israel, will make it clear that while the American people and the American President have stated that we recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that we are ready now to move forward to resolve longstanding issues and finally bring this decades-old conflict to an end.