U.S. Vice President Mike Pence introduces U.S. President Donald Trump before he delivers remarks regarding the Administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C, U.S., December 18, 2
CAIRO – 10 January 2018: A delegation of top U.S. officials arrived in Cairo, coming from Greece, to prepare for the anticipated visit of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence next week.
The delegation, which includes 20 employees of Pence’s bureau, checked the places the VP will visit during his 2-day visit. They also checked the security measures at Cairo Airport and the ways leading to the sites he will visit.
Pence will visit Egypt, Jordan and Israel from Jan. 20 to 23, the White House said on Monday, embarking on a tour originally planned for last month that was postponed after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Pence will hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.
Pence, a strong supporter of Trump's decision on Jerusalem, will also visit the city's Western Wall and give a speech at the Israeli Knesset, it said.
Trump's decision on Jerusalem and announcement in December that the United States would start the process of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv led to uproar and protest in the region.
"At President Trump's direction, the vice president is traveling to the Middle East to reaffirm our commitment to work with the U.S.'s allies in the region to defeat radicalism that threatens future generations," said Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Pence.
He plans to discuss with the three leaders "ways to work together to fight terrorism and improve our national security," she added.
The status of Jerusalem, which is home to Muslim, Jewish and Christian holy sites, is one of the thorniest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who were furious over Trump's move and have declined to meet with Pence. The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the full city.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb announced his rejection to meet with the U.S. VP on December 8.
“How can I sit with those who granted what they do not own to those who do not deserve it,” Tayeb expressed in the statement, alluding to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The grand imam called on Trump to overturn his illegitimacy and illegal decision.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark’s Diocese also declined Pence’s meeting invitation. “This decision affects millions of people's feelings in the region. How could we meet him after this?” the Pope wondered during an interview with CBC television channel on January 8.
On December 21, a total of 128 countries defied President Donald Trump’s threat and voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal capital, while Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of theirs to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.
Pence postponed a planned visit to Egypt and Israel last month to stay in Washington for a congressional vote on Trump's tax overhaul plan.
(Contributed by Reuters)
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