US VP Pence to discuss Iran, IS during Mideast trip

WASHINGTON– US Vice President Mike Pence’s number one priority during his trip to Egypt and Israel next week is countering Iran, defeating the so-called Islamic State and combating extremist ideology, a senior official said Friday.

“We still continue to be focused on a peace process and how we ultimately bring that situation to a conclusion but Iran, IS terrorists and countering the extremist ideology are still the big priorities in the region,” said the official in a background call with reporters.

“We continue to work with all of the Muslim countries there very closely on achieving those objectives,” according to the official.

The official highlighted that Egypt plays “a central role” in the region as the country remains an important and critical partner for security.

“We’ve obviously been working very closely with Egypt as they fight IS, especially in the Sinai, and as they fight terrorism broadly,” the official noted.

President Donald Trump and his Egyptian counterpart Abdelfatah Al-Sisi have had several meetings this year and developed a very strong relationship throughout these meetings.

Al-Sisi attended the Riyadh Summit earlier this year with 54 other Arab and Muslim leaders where he affirmed his support to working to defeat terrorism.

“Historically, Egypt has also played a very important role in peace efforts,” the official highlighted.

This will be Pence’s first trip to an Arab nation as Vice President; he is expected to send “a strong signal” to Egypt that it is an important partner and there are “many issues” to discuss for the countries to work together.

In Jerusalem, Pence will also reinforce Trump’s announcement to move the embassy there.

“We understand that the Palestinians may need a bit of a cooling-off period, but that’s fine. We remain very hard at work. There’s a lot of dedication, both from the team here and the missions on the ground to getting this deal done,” another official said.

“I think everybody realizes that a US-led peace process is the only way forward. So we will be ready when the Palestinians are ready to reengage, but in the meantime, there’s plenty to do,” he added.

Source: Kuwait News Agency