Pence says he hears out Egyptian leader Sisi, who says recognition of Jerusalem as capital could complicate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Vice President Mike Pence arrived Saturday in Egypt for a four-day trip to the Middle East and quickly got a taste of the disenchantment in parts of the region over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Mr. Pence met for about 2½ hours with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who told him he disagreed with a decision that potentially complicates negotiations over a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

“We heard President Al Sisi out,” Mr. Pence said later at a news conference.

Mr. Pence and the Egyptian leader also discussed the fate of Americans imprisoned by Egypt, terrorist threats and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Mr. Pence spoke warmly of the strong ties between Egypt and the U.S., though the reception given to the press corps and some government aides was chilly.

After arriving at the presidential palace in Cairo in the afternoon, reporters and an aide to Mr. Pence were initially barred from leaving a van that was part of the motorcade. They were permitted to enter the palace only after Mr. Pence’s aide appealed to colleagues outside for help.

Once inside, Egyptian officials and Pence aides argued about whether U.S. reporters and photographers could cover any part of the meetings between Messrs. Pence and Sisi.

The dispute made its way to Mr. Pence, who raised the issue directly with Mr. Sisi in their meeting, a vice presidential aide said. In the end, the Egyptians relented and allowed the press in to take pictures and listen to brief remarks.

Mr. Pence is the highest-level U.S. official to visit Egypt since then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2010.

Messrs. Pence and Sisi sat next to each other in gilded chairs, flowers between them. Mr. Sisi described Mr. Trump as his friend and pledged to help tackle “urgent issues concerning counterterrorism…”

He ignored questions shouted by reporters about the Palestinians, Jerusalem and other issues.

Press-advocacy groups in recent years have said Egypt blocks access to independent news sites. A report from the Committee to Protect Journalists in December concluded that Egypt was one of the three worst countries, along with China and Turkey, when it comes to imprisoning journalists.

In his news conference, Mr. Pence described the conversation over Jerusalem’s status as a “disagreement between friends.

He said the Trump administration was committed to “restarting the peace process in the Middle East” and wants a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians if the “parties agree.”

“My perception was he was encouraged by that message,” Mr. Pence said.

The vice president said he also spoke to Mr. Sisi about Americans who have been detained in Egypt, specifically two men: Ahmed Etiwy and Moustafa Kassem.

Last year, Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) sent a letter to Mr. Trump urging that he press Egypt over human-rights violations and mentioning the cases of Messrs. Etiwy and Kassem. He said that Mr. Etiwy had been “languishing in pretrial detention” for four years and was falsely accused of taking part in unauthorized protests.

Mr. Pence said that he “would like to see our people come home and I made that clear to him (Mr. Sisi) and he assured me he would give his personal attention.”

After leaving Egypt on Saturday night, Mr. Pence flew to Amman, Jordan, where he is set to meet King Abdullah II. He’ll spend Monday and Tuesday in Israel, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and giving an address to the Israeli Knesset.

Mr. Pence isn’t expected to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the trip.

After the White House’s announcement on Jerusalem, Mr. Abbas said he would refuse to see Mr. Pence. Asked if he can advance the peace process without meeting with Palestinian leaders, Mr. Pence said “we are ready now to move forward to resolve longstanding issues and finally bring this decades-old conflict to an end.”

A sore point between the U.S. and Egypt is North Korea, a country Mr. Trump has sought to isolate diplomatically. Mr. Trump has raised concerns directly with Mr. Sisi about Egypt’s ties to North Korea.

In 2016, the U.S. sanctioned some North Korean companies for exporting workers to some countries, including Egypt. Mr. Pence, in the meeting, said he stressed “how important it would be for the to discontinue any diplomatic connection to North Korea,” he said.

Mr. Sisi, he added, “received that well.”

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/pence-in-egypt-hears-criticism-of-trump-jerusalem-policy-1516491133