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Mike Pence delays Egypt, Israel trip 'over tax reform vote'

Mike Pence delays Egypt, Israel trip 'over tax reform vote'”

In October, Vice President Mike Pence, a forthright Evangelical Christian, expressed his intention to show solidarity with the Middle East's persecuted Christians before Christmas. Pence is postponing his trip to Egypt and Israel until the middle of January, citing an upcoming vote in the Senate to overhaul the nation's tax system.

Pence originally planned to also pay a visit to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, but the latter has since announced Pence was not welcome, because of President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The itinerary had already seen several cancellations following Washington's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but the White House attributed the rescheduling for domestic reasons.

Mr Pence's spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said the trip would happen in January and said they delay was due to the tax vote in the Senate this week. He is now expected to travel to the Middle East during the week of January 14, according to senior White House officials.

A senior official said Monday that even though "the tax vote is still in very good shape", the last-minute failure of health-care reform legislation in July - following an unexpected thumbs down from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was returning to his home state for cancer treatment, leaving Republicans with only 51 votes for the tax bill.

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Trump's decision countered an worldwide consensus that Jerusalem's status should be decided in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had originally meant to meet with Pence but pulled out of the meeting after denouncing Trump's decision. In October, Pence's office said the vice president was schedule to make a stop in the occupied West Bank during the visit.

Pence's planned tour included a visit to Egypt to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, followed by a visit to Israel, where the vice president was set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Egypt's Coptic Church cancelled a meeting between Mr Pence and Pope Tawadros II following the Jerusalem announcement.



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