Egyptian Parliament delegation in Washington - File photo
CAIRO - 16 June 2017: The U.S. should “force” all parties in Syria to sit at the negotiating table to achieve peace, Egyptian parliamentarian Saad al-Gammal told Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in Washington.
“You are strong and can achieve peace in many ways other than military strikes that shed more blood, and we can sit at one negotiating table and force all relevant parties to achieve peace because you are the biggest country in the world,” said Gammal, head of the Arab Affairs Committee, during a meeting between an Egyptian parliamentary delegation and Gohmert in the U.S. Congress building.
Gohmert is a member of the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, which referred a bill designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations in February. Another similar Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations last January.
The Egyptian delegation headed to Washington from Tuesday to Thursday on an official visit to the U.S. Congress, the first since 2008.
For his part, Gohmert said there is a serious tendency to provide all aid to Egypt in the coming period.
The Egyptian delegation included Ahmed Saeed, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Ahmed al-Seggini, chairman of the Local Management Committee; Abdel Hady al-Qasby, head of the Social Solidarity Committee; and parliamentarians Samia Rafla and Bassant Fahmy.
The main topics of the meetings between the Egyptian and American parties tackled issues like combating terrorism, renewing religious discourse, punishing countries that support terrorism and the repercussions of several Arab nations’ decision to sever diplomatic ties with Qatar.
During the first day of the visit, the Egyptian delegation met with a number of Republican and Democratic representatives.
Effects of the “very important” U.S. military base in Qatar on U.S.-Qatari relations
During his meeting with the Egyptian delegation, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), vice chairman of the bipartisan Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing, was asked about the practical steps that would translate into the U.S. “boycotting” Qatar, particularly in the light of the U.S. interest in stopping financial support for terrorist groups. Pittenger said the U.S. has a “very important military base in Qatar and it is not easy for the U.S. to lose Qatar.”
On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Qatar to “stop funding terrorism,” saying it is “historically, a funder of terrorism at a high level.” On Thursday, however, Trump announced a $12 billion arms deal with the small Gulf state.
Pittenger also expressed concerns over the Iranian-Turkish-Qatari triangle in the region.
Parliamentary delegation clears out confusion over Christians in Egypt
The parliamentary delegation noted Egypt’s efforts in addressing the grievances of Christians in the country, as the Egyptian government has completed the restoration of the churches that were damaged in terrorist attacks as well as the great efforts to fight extremist ideas to ultimately preserve civil rights for Muslims and Christians alike.
Educational reform in Egypt “a prelude” to combat terrorism
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) reviewed a comprehensive plan to combat religious extremism in the region that included “the need to stop terrorist financing around the world, as well as an international plan to root out terrorism and further intelligence cooperation among the countries of the world,” calling on Iran and Qatar to shun radicalism.
In response, Egyptian parliamentarian Gamal Shiha noted that educational reform in Egypt could be “a prelude to fighting terrorism across the world.”
Egypt is the “qualified country” to change religious discourse
The fourth meeting was with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Egypt Caucus and a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She emphasized that, “Egypt is the qualified country to change religious discourse as well as curricula to ensure the fight against terrorism.”
Chairman of the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Committee Ahmed Saeed said Egypt’s safety is connected to Europe’s safety, and that a “developed community” needs to be built in Egypt.
There was one last meeting with Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, in which Saeed stressed the importance of continuous communication between the U.S. Congress and the Egyptian parliament. He also said Egypt needs “technical assistance, rather than financial.”
The U.S. Representatives urged Egypt to keep channels of communication open with the Congress, including with representatives of the Democratic Party, to ensure close relations in case of change in the U.S. administration.