WASHINGTON -- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, returned Wednesday (Sept. 23) from leading a House delegation trip to Egypt and Greece at a time both nations are very much in the news.

On Wednesday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who met with Scalise and other House members in the delegation, pardoned and released over 100 people, many of them human rights activists imprisoned on allegations of violating a controversial law banning unapproved demonstrations. Also released were two Al-Jazeera English journalists who were first detained in 2013 after the al-Sisi government objected to reporting on demonstrations against the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The massive arrests by the al-Sisi government drew widespread condemnation by human rights groups.

In Greece, a new leftist-led coalition government, elected Sunday, assumed control of the government Wednesday, facing major challenges, including implementing a new austerity program demanded by European creditors in return for refinancing large debts as well as a growing immigration crisis.

Scalise and his delegation, six Republicans and one Democrat, met with al-Sisi and Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who continues in that mostly ceremonial role with the new Greek government. The delegation also met with other leaders, as well as American officials, in the two nations.

Scalise said the delegation discussed America's relationship with the two nations in regards to regional security, economic development and the migrant crisis, fueled mostly by the brutal civil war in Syria.

"Egypt is a crucial ally in the global fight against terror," Scalise said. "Egypt's strong commitment to increasing regional stability, developing new energy resources, growing a healthy Egyptian economy, and fighting terrorists sends a strong signal to our allies in the region and serves as an example for other countries in what is an increasingly hostile and tumultuous part of the world. We look forward to continuing our friendship and working to make our relationship stronger."

Scalise, the third ranking House GOP leader, said the "historic and long-lasting friendship" between the United States and Greece is anchored by "shared values and democratic principles."

"Since the beginning of history, Greece has played a central role shaping global events and they continue to do so today," Scalise said. "It was an honor to meet with Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on the historic occasion of the swearing in of the newly elected prime minister and his entire cabinet. We congratulate the people of Greece on the successful completion of this week's parliamentary elections. It is our hope that the newly elected government will ensure the successful implementation of the agreed upon economic reforms so that Greece and its people may enjoy a strong and secure future."

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