Arab leaders flock to Washington: Trump meets El-Sisi and King Abdallah next week

In this photo provided by Egypt's state news agency, MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II, in Cairo, Egypt, in this Feb. 21, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 02 April 2017

Arab leaders flock to Washington: Trump meets El-Sisi and King Abdallah next week

WASHINGTON: Following last month’s visits to Washington by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdallah are set to follow suit next week to hold official meetings with US President Donald Trump separately at the White House. 
The visits, in what Arab diplomatic sources described as “an inter-regional horse race” to meet with Trump, are expected to build on decisions reached at the Arab League Summit this week in Jordan.
El-Sisi’s arrival in Washington, expected today, will mark the first of an Egyptian president to the White House since 2009.
His meeting with Trump on Monday coincides historically with the first meeting that former President Jimmy Carter held with his Egyptian counterpart Anwar Sadat on April 3, 1977.
Forty years since that meeting, a White House official described Egypt as a “traditional pillar of stability” in the Middle East. “President Trump is excited to welcome President Sisi,” the official told reporters Friday. “He wants to use President Sisi’s visit to reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September.”
Chemistry between Trump and El-Sisi was visible in their New York meeting, in contrast to the body language and tense relations he had with former US President Barack Obama. El-Sisi, a former commander in chief of Egypt’s Army, was the first foreign leader to call Trump on his cell phone after his electoral victory on Nov. 9.
The White House is seeking to “improve the tone of the relationship” and “boost military and economic cooperation with Egypt,” said the US official, who praised El-Sisi’s economic reforms. While designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization was highly considered by the Trump team, and would have been welcomed by Cairo, the White House gave a noncommittal response on the issue.
“We, along with a number of countries, have some concerns about various activities that the Muslim Brotherhood has conducted in the region,” the official said. US sources told Arab News that the White House is backtracking on the designation “for legal purposes,” but “could consider other measures.”
Counterterrorism and deepening military cooperation will be high on the agenda. The US gives $1.3 billion annually in military aid to Egypt, which will continue under Trump. “We’re in the budget process right now, and those discussions are ongoing as to how it will be broken out,” the official said, prioritizing “the defeat of the terrorist threat in Sinai and improving security cooperation.”
The issues of human rights and democracy appear to have taken a back seat publicly in the Trump administration. White House statements since Trump took office emphasize security and stability. A US official said: “Our approach is to handle these types of sensitive issues in a private, more discreet way. We believe it’s the most effective way to advance those issues to a favorable outcome.”
Trump is expected to host King Abdallah on Wednesday at the Oval Office. The meeting is their first official one in the White House, and the second since last February following an informal sit-down at National Breakfast prayer in Washington.
The White House official described King Abdallah as a “key partner” for the US in the region, and drew a long list for the discussions between the two leaders. “They will discuss a range of shared priorities, the fight against Islamic State (Daesh) militants, the Syria crisis and advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said the White House.
Interim zones of stability in Syria will be raised with Jordan, said the White House official, as well as the new US position on Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Thursday, a position that echoes a new set of priorities in Syria for the US shared by Jordan and Egypt.
Resuming negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be central in Trump’s meetings with both El-Sisi and King Abdallah. Securing a regional umbrella for the talks is sought by all sides before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ visit to Washington, expected at the end of this month.


Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Updated 10 July 2020

Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

  • Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018
  • Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.
Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
Abebech said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run.
One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, Abebech said.
The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disavowed any links to armed insurgents.
The Internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities.”
In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” Abebech said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”