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US Vice President Mike Pence visits Middle East

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By Katy Dartford
US Vice President Mike Pence visits Middle East

US Vice President Mike Pence kicked off a three day trip to the Middle East with a visit to Egypt, where he pledged the firm backing of the U.S. in the nation's fight against Islamist militants.

Pence held talks with Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, seeking to reassure the key Arab ally over US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Pence said he assured Sisi that the United States was committed to preserving the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem and had come to no final resolution on boundaries for the two parties.

In his meeting with Egypt's president, Pence pledged firm U.S. backing in the nation's fight against Islamist militants and said ties between the two countries had never been stronger after a period of "drifting apart."

Pence is on 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.

At his next stop in Jordan, King Abdullah told him that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a two-state one..

He also reiterated that East Jerusalem had to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. 

Jordan lost East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Pence will end his trip in Israel, where he will be warmly welcomed following Trump's designation. He plans to meet 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.