Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has set off for Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in a gathering of leaders who have expressed mutual admiration for each other.
A U.S. administration official said Trump wants to use Sisi's April 3 visit to "reboot the bilateral connection."
Comments from the two leaders indicate the possibility of a stronger relationship than Sisi had with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.
Sisi said after Trump’s election that the first-time politician "has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and what is taking place in Egypt."
Meanwhile, Trump told Fox Business News that Sisi is a "fantastic guy. Took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it." Trump also spoke of his "chemistry" with Sisi after meeting with him last September in New York.
Sisi, a former army chief, overthrew Egypt's Islamist president in 2013 and cracked down on his followers. That prompted Obama to temporarily suspend military aid to Cairo.
The Trump administration official said the United States will approach rights issues in a "private, more discreet way."
The official praised the Egyptian leader, saying he has "led Egypt's campaign to defeat a long-running terrorist threat in the Sinai."
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be among the topics discussed, officials said.
Sisi left for Washington on April 1 and is scheduled to meet U.S. cabinet officials and lawmakers before visiting with Trump, his office said.
Egypt has long been one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East and receives $1.3 billion annually in military aid.
During his trip to Washington, Sisi will also meet with the International Monetary Fund chief and the World Bank president "to discuss strengthening cooperation with both institutions in various economic fields," officials said.
After meeting with the Egyptian leader, Trump will visit with King Abdullah of Jordan on April 5 at the White House.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP