Vice President Pence, center-left, and his delegation meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, center right, and his delegation at the presidential palace in Cairo on January 20. (Khaled Desouki / pool via AP)  CAIRO – On Saturday, the first day of the federal government's closure, Vice President Pence arrived here late in the afternoon to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, a who praised and repeatedly called "friend" of the United States.
The leaders spent approximately four hours together and made brief statements to a small group of reporters traveling with Pence, an almost nine-minute event that only happened after intense negotiation between Pence's staff and the Egyptian authorities. they wanted to limit access to a television camera with limited sound and, at one point, journalists with physical bars left a bus.
Sitting in golden chairs facing an intricate tapestry that shows a map of Egyp t, Sissi said through an interpreter that Pence is a "dear guest" and that his visit "says a lot" about Egypt's relationship with the Trump administration. Pence said the two countries had been "distancing" until Trump took office, but that his "ties have never been stronger," especially as they work together to fight terrorism in the region. He added that he chose to visit Egypt first on his four-day tour of three countries in the Middle East because of the importance of the relationship between the United States and Egypt. [ [ Pence's hopes of traveling through the Middle East will probably crash into reality on the ground]
Pence denounced a terrorist attack on an Egyptian mosque in November that killed more than 300, along with the recent attacks against the Coptic Christians.
The public comments were warm and friendly without mentioning the disagreements between the two countries, such as President Trump's decision late last year to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that Egypt has imprisoned several US citizens , often with questionable charges. As Pence prepared to leave on Saturday night, he told reporters that both issues came up in private conversations.
Pence arrived at the presidential palace on Saturday afternoon along with a bus carrying the 12 journalists traveling with him in the Middle East this week. A CNN journalist with a video camera got off the bus, but then an Egyptian official stood in front of the door and did not allow anyone else to leave. One of Pence's staff members firmly told the man that he needed to let everyone out, but he refused to move, forcing her to scream out the windows at others who could help.
After about three minutes, journalists were allowed off the bus but could not carry cell phones, cameras or laptops to the palace. For approximately 90 minutes, reporters waited in a luxurious palace room while the vice president's communications staff tried to convince the Egyptian authorities to allow journalists to see part of the meeting. The Egyptians finally gave in when Pence heard about it and asked that journalists be allowed to enter for a while.
After two meetings, the two leaders and their main assistants dined together. Then, Pence traveled to Amman, Jordan, where he is scheduled to meet on Sunday with King Abdullah II.
Before taking off, Pence told reporters traveling with him that he and Sissi were discussing terrorism, isolating North Korea, religious freedom, the need to make changes Egypt's oversight of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) ) and "the situation of two Americans who are currently detained, imprisoned here in Egypt."
The two Americans in question are Mostafa Kassem and Ahmed Etiwy, whom the United States claims were unjustly imprisoned in 2013. Sissi assured him that he would give his cases "very serious attention" and "personal attention," Pence said.
"I told him that we would like to see those American citizens restored to their families and restored in our country," he said.
In Jerusalem, Pence said he listened to Sissi and reaffirmed that Trump is committed to maintaining the status quo when it comes to Holy Sit is in Jerusalem and a final resolution on the boundaries will be decided in the peace process. If both parties agree, the United States would support a two-state solution, according to Pence. "My perception was that I was encouraged by that message," he said.
Pence called the general meeting very productive.
"I will leave Egypt very animated by the talks and even more grateful for the solid strategic partnership that the United States enjoys with Egypt," he said.
The vice president's trip is happening despite the closure of the federal government in the United States. Pence's press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said Friday that "the vice president's meetings with the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Israel are essential for national security and the diplomatic objectives of the United States."
Air Force Two was on the Atlantic Ocean when the news arrived Congress had not reached an agreement on an expenditure agreement and the government would close immediately. Pence received the news from his chief of staff, Nick Ayers, who then informed the reporters on the plane and distributed a written statement from the vice president.
About three hours later, the plane stopped to refuel at the Shannon airport in Ireland. Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, spent about 20 minutes in the terminal talking to dozens of young Air Force members heading to Kuwait, many for their first deployment. The couple spent most of the time posing for photos, shaking hands and thanking the troops for their service, but the closure also occurred, as service members and other federal employees will not receive their checks until the closure is over. .
You will understand this in Washington, "Pence said after a group photo." You are focused on your mission. "
While preparing to return to Air Force Two, Pence spoke with reporters, despite the fact that His wife had asked him to meet the schedule and return to the plane, about his interactions with the troops, using it as an opportunity to attack the Democrats who do not do enough to avoid a closure. of the vice president's party voted against a short-term spending bill and that some Democrats voted for it, Pence said that the responsibility rests primarily with the Democrats in the Senate.
"Democrats in the Senate – with some exceptions on both sides: they chose to put the policy ahead of our national defense, put the policy before fulfilling the obligations of our national government, "he said. or, standing in an airport food court. "And that is simply unacceptable." It's disappointing. "
When asked how long the closing could last, Pence said," It's going to take as long as necessary. "He said members of Congress must" do their job "and quickly end the job. dead end street