CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the first world leader to call to congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory on Wednesday, Sisi’s office said.
Sisi, who held a friendly meeting with Trump during a visit to New York in September, said he hoped the business magnate’s election would breathe new life into U.S.-Egyptian ties.
“The U.S. President-elect Donald Trump expressed his utmost appreciation to the president, pointing out that his was the first international call he had received to congratulate him on winning the election,” a presidency statement said.
“Trump said he looked forward to meeting the president (again) soon.”
Egypt receives military aid from the United States worth $1.3 billion a year.
Unperturbed by Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, many Egyptians welcomed his victory, saying his opponent Hillary Clinton’s record in office had won her few friends in the most populous Arab country.
“We, in Egypt, love Trump not Hillary because she is an enemy of the Middle East and we were scared of her presence. Trump’s relationship with us is nice and we had hoped for him to win,” said 56-year-old Hani Nasr, an accountant.
Asked how he felt about Trump’s anti-Muslim comments during the campaign, Nasr said: “These are just words that are spoken during an election campaign. He will not implement any of it.”
The comments drew fire from American Muslims who said his stance had fuelled an atmosphere where people may feel they can openly voice prejudice against, or even attack, Muslims.
But Clinton, Secretary of State during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, is unpopular with many Egyptians. Many of those who backed the revolt saw her as a long-standing supporter of Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat they toppled from power.
Supporters of Sisi, however, consider her too sympathetic toward the Muslim Brotherhood, which won Egypt’s first free elections following the revolt. Sisi ousted the Brotherhood in 2013 following protests.
Egyptians who took to social media appeared divided as the results came in, with political activists and younger people more concerned about a Trump presidency.
“A Hillary victory would not have saved anyone, but a Trump victory has confirmed the language of racism, hatred and extremism has become accepted in more educated, aware and democratic societies,” Mahmoud Afifi, an Egyptian political activist, wrote on Twitter.
Some Egyptians joked they were preparing for a deluge of American immigrants after an election that had polarised opinion.
“We have about seven million empty apartments that are fit for American refugees,” tweeted human rights lawyer Gamal Eid.
Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Catherine Evans and Giles Elgood