The first encounter between United States President, Joseph Biden, and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, in Jeddah last week, was friendly and fruitful. Egyptian and American analysts who hate to see the two countries working together have been making negative speculations about this meeting.
However, it seems that the two leaders are finally agreeing to put aside disagreements on values and perceptions, and rather focus on strategic cooperation for the good of all involved parties.
Immediately, after shaking hands with El-Sisi, for the first time, in Jeddah, last week, Biden praised Egypt’s exceptional role in cooling down the latest episode of war in Gaza that erupted, unexpectedly, last year. “I’d like to start by thanking you for the incredible assistance you have provided in bringing the Gaza matter to an end.
I know there is a lot of work to be done, but you were extremely, extremely helpful;” said Biden to El-Sisi. In response, El-Sisi confirmed his keenness to take the Egypt-American relationship to the next level.
Egypt’s successful intervention in Gaza marked the beginning of the first phone conversation between Biden and El-Sisi. A few months after, the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue was resumed, after two decades of freeze. Before that, the Biden Administration had been giving Egypt the cold shoulder, to please the American voters from the far left, who angrily criticized his predecessor for calling the Egyptian president a friend.
They must be biting their fingers now after seeing President Biden, calling El-Sisi a valuable friend. “I’m looking forward to working with you on a lot of other things. I think, at least from the U.S. perspective, there is a great deal of merit in us working more closely together. You’re a valuable, valuable friend;” asserted Biden in his first face-to-face conversation with El-Sisi, in Jeddah, last week.
Indeed, Time and experience have proven that Egypt is the most important strategic partner for the United States in the most complicated and misunderstood region of the Middle East. That is in addition to its rising role as a hub for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean region.
Last month, Egypt and Israel signed a historic trade agreement with the European Union that will allow them to jointly fulfill a large portion of Europe’s need from gas.
This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between Egypt and the United States. Albeit, some historians trace the start of the relationship between Egypt and the United States back to the 19th century, when American doctors were allowed access to Egypt to help wounded Sudanese soldiers, in 1823. The two countries cannot do without each other, no matter how different the values and perceptions of their political leaderships are.
President Biden has walked his talk about the strategic importance of Egypt. The joint statement that got released after the first meeting between the two presidents, shows that the United States is willing to help Egypt with solving its problems and re-assuming its important leadership position in the region. That includes providing financial assistance to help the Egyptian economy navigate through the current economic crisis, in addition to supporting Egypt’s profile at international lending organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Meanwhile, the Biden Administration, for the first time, shows interest in helping Egypt resolve its conflict with Ethiopia over the Nile River. “Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), President Biden reiterated U.S. support for Egypt’s water security and to forging a diplomatic resolution that would achieve the interests of all parties and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous region;” noted the joint statement.“The two leaders reiterated the imperative of concluding an agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD without further delay as stipulated in the Statement of the President of the United Nations Security Council dated September 15, 2021, and in accordance with international law.”
Above all that, the American president asserted that advancing human rights and civil freedoms is an essential component to a successful bilateral relationship between Egypt and the United States. The Egyptian president could not disagree with this fact. The joint statement noted clearly that the two leaders will “continue to consult closely on ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in political, civil, economic, social and cultural fields,” in addition to appreciating the role of civil society in all that.
In fact, the mere return of the democratic America, which we know and love, after almost six years of absence, promises a strong return to people’s ambitious quest for democratization and liberalism, which have been muted for too long under the pressure of fighting terrorism. That is especially true for countries that went through the tough experience of the Arab Spring, such as Egypt. I am optimistic that the newly found relationship between President El-Sisi and President Biden will definitely push forward the work on democratization and improving human and civil rights conditions in Egypt.