Mike Pence kicked off a trip to Middle East tour in Egypt pledged ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ support

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (not pictured) meets with with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt January 20, 2018. REUTERS/ Khaled Desouki/Pool

Vastavam web: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence kicked off a trip to the Middle East on Saturday with a visit to Egypt, where he pledged firm U.S. backing to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the nation’s fight against militants.Pence said ties between the two countries had never been stronger after a period of “drifting apart” and that President Donald Trump sent his gratitude to Sisi for implementing economic reforms.

Pence’s quick visit comes at the start of a three-country tour that also includes stops in Jordan and Israel. This is the highest-level visit from a U.S. official to the region since December, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.That decision, which reversed decades of U.S. policy and set in motion the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, upset leaders in the Arab world and prompted Palestinians to reject the United States as a broker for peace.

Egypt has faced security problems, including attacks by Islamic State militants in the North Sinai region. Trump has made the fight against Islamic State a top priority.Upon arriving at the palace where Pence and Sisi met, reporters traveling with the vice president initially were not allowed to exit their van and enter the building. Eventually they were admitted and allowed to attend part of the meeting. Pence, whose wife, Karen, is accompanying him, will end his trip in Israel, where he will be warmly welcomed in the aftermath of Trump’s decision. He plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, address the Israeli legislature and visit the Western Wall.

Pence is not scheduled to meet Palestinian leaders. They were incensed by Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, which upended the longstanding U.S. position that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must determine the city’s status.