Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has praised U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump, saying that his inflammatory statements from the campaign trail do not necessarily reflect the actions he will take as president.
El-Sissi, in an interview with Portuguese news agency LUSA released on Saturday, said, “let’s not jump into conclusions or worry” about future U.S. actions or policies in the Middle East. The army chief-turned-president was interviewed prior to his upcoming Nov. 21 visit to Portugal.
El-Sissi was among the very first foreign leaders to congratulate Trump’s on his presidential victory.
“We have to distinguish between the rhetoric that takes place within presidential campaigns and the real and actual administration of a country after the inauguration,” he said. “There will be a chance for more thorough readings.”
El-Sissi’s remarks echoed sentiments that have been circulating on local and regional media, with columnists speculating that Trump campaign rhetoric — such as his call for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. — will be watered down.
Trump and el-Sissi have already shown a certain bond. Trump said there was “good chemistry” when they met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September. El-Sissi said Trump would “without a doubt” make a strong leader.
El-Sissi, who was elected in 2014 after leading the military ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, has painted himself as a regional leader in the fight against Islamic militancy — a stance that echoes Trump’s priorities.
The prospect of warmer relations with Trump comes after years of comparative chill between el-Sissi and outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama.
After the ouster of Morsi and the subsequent lethal crackdown on Islamist supporters, the Obama administration voiced criticism and briefly suspended part of the Egypt’s robust American aid package.
Egypt’s pro-government media have often railed against Obama, accusing the U.S. of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other dissident groups. Many of those pro-government media outlets are now cheering Trump’s victory.
Observers believe that Trump is less likely to take Egypt to task over human rights. Instead, he could offer el-Sissi international political support as the Egyptian leader battles Islamic State group-linked militants in the Sinai peninsula and in neighboring Libya.
“I believe that President Trump will be vigorously engaged with the issues in the region,” el-Sissi said. “As a matter of fact, Trump has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and Egypt in particular. I am looking forward and expecting more support and reinforcement of our bilateral relations.”