CAIRO (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence kicked off a trip to the Middle East on Saturday with a visit to Egypt, where he pledged firm U.S. backing to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the nation's fight against militants.
Pence said ties between the two countries had never been stronger after a period of "drifting apart" and that President Donald Trump sent his gratitude to Sisi for implementing economic reforms.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in Egypt in the fight against terrorism," Pence said.
Sisi said the two men discussed ways to eliminate the "disease and cancer" of terrorism and called Trump a friend.
Pence's quick visit comes at the start of a three-country tour that also includes stops in Jordan and Israel. This is the highest-level visit from a U.S. official to the region since December, when Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
RELATED: Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Donald Trump and Mike Pence
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump appear on stage at a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Vice President Mike Pence as he departs the White House to North Dakota, in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump waves after attending a briefing with Vice President Mike Pence (L) and first lady Melania Trump (R) on Hurricane Irma relief efforts in Fort Myers, Florida, U.S., September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump stands with first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) during a moment of silence in the wake of the the mass shooting in Las Vegas at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence escorts U.S. President Donald Trump back towards the table after Trump left before signing an executive order on healthcare at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stand on the ramp of Air Force One as Trump arrives in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump is joined by (L-R) Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn as he speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. With the departure of Bannon from the White House on August 18, 2017 none of these men remain working with Trump at the White House except Vice President Pence. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
Vice President Mike Pence laughs as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a baseball bat as they attend a Made in America product showcase event at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity chaired by Vice President Mike Pence (R) at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters with Vice President Mike Pence at his side at Trump's golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey U.S. August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attend a National Day of Prayer event at the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington D.C., U.S., May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts as he is introduced by Vice President Mike Pence (L) during the signing of an executive order on "Energy Independence," eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, U.S., March 28, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Trump addresses Joint Session of Congress - Washington, U.S. - 28/02/17 - U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in front of Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump (C), Vice President Mike Pence (R) and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus arrive to meet Harley Davidson executives at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump sings the U.S. National Anthem while accompanied by his wife Melania, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) during a prayer service at Washington National Cathedral the morning after his inauguration, in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump with his wife Melania and Vice President Mike Pence with his wife Karen cut a cake at the Armed Services Ball in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence salute marchers during the inaugural parade in Washington, January 20, 2017. Donald Trump was sworn in earlier as the 45th President of the United States. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Mike Pence(L), Donald Trump (2nd L), U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on the West front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence wave goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. In today's inauguration ceremony Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States. REUTERS/Rob Carr/Pool
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Indiana Governor Mike Pence (L) before addressing the crowd during a campaign stop at the Grand Park Events Center in Westfield, Indiana, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump shakes hands with his running mate Governor Mike Pence (R) at the conclusion of the final session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
That decision, which reversed decades of U.S. policy and set in motion the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, upset leaders in the Arab world and prompted Palestinians to reject the United States as a broker for peace.
Pence, a conservative Christian who was one of the driving forces behind the move, and Sisi did not discuss the Jerusalem decision during their public remarks in front of reporters.
Egypt has faced security problems, including attacks by Islamic State militants in the North Sinai region. Trump has made the fight against Islamic State a top priority.
Upon arriving at the palace where Pence and Sisi met, reporters traveling with the vice president initially were not allowed to exit their van and enter the building. Eventually they were admitted and allowed to attend part of the meeting.
From Cairo, Pence heads to Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah, a close U.S. ally. Abdullah warned against declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying it would have a dangerous impact on regional stability and obstruct U.S. efforts to resume peace talks.
Many people in Jordan are descendants of Palestinian refugees whose families left after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Pence, whose wife, Karen, is accompanying him, will end his trip in Israel, where he will be warmly welcomed in the aftermath of Trump's decision. He plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, address the Israeli legislature and visit the Western Wall.
Pence is not scheduled to meet Palestinian leaders. They were incensed by Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, which upended the longstanding U.S. position that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians must determine the city's status.
The Trump administration’s recent announcement that it was withholding about half of the aid it was due to give to a United Nations relief agency that serves the Palestinians raised questions about fledgling U.S. efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and further undermined Arabs' faith that the United States can act as an impartial arbitrator.
Pence also plans to visit with U.S. troops while he is in the region.
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)