This content is not available in your region

Biden administration set to deny $130 million in military aid to Egypt, U.S. officials say

Access to the comments Comments
By Reuters
Biden administration to deny $130 million in military aid to Egypt - sources
Biden administration to deny $130 million in military aid to Egypt - sources   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis and Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON -The Biden administration is set to deny $130 million of military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, U.S. State Department officials said on Friday, in a rare punishment of a key ally, even though it fell short of expectations of rights groups.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in September that the aid would be withheld if Egypt did not address specific human-rights-related conditions Washington has set out.

Rights groups had called on the administration to block the entire $300 million of foreign military financing to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egyptian government. Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has tightened in recent years.

“While the Secretary has not made the final decision, if there are not major developments over the next couple of days, the Secretary will re-program the $130 million to other national security priorities as he previewed in September,” a State Department official said in a call with reporters.

The portion of the aid withheld accounts for 10 percent of the $1.3 billion that was allocated for Egypt for fiscal year 2020. This amount has been appropriated to Egypt every year since 2017, according to a congressional research report.

Friday’s announcement also comes after the administration approved the potential sale of air defense radars and C-130 Super Hercules planes to Egypt for a combined value of more than $2.5 billion, raising doubts about the impact of the withheld amount.

U.S. officials say the relationship with Egypt is complex. The most populous Arab country is a vital ally and the $2.5 billion sale is a deal that specifically serves U.S. interests.

“They’re sort of emblematic in the types of things we would like to see Egypt procuring because these are things that have direct relations to U.S. security interests more broadly,” one of the State Department officials said.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat and an ally of President Joe Biden, welcomed the decision, and said Sisi had failed to meet the administration’s “narrow and wholly achievable human rights conditions”.

“It sends the important message abroad that we will back up our commitment to human rights with action and gone are the days where dictators receive blank checks from America,” Murphy said in a statement.

Rights groups say tens of thousands have been detained in Egypt, including Brotherhood leaders and secular activists.

Sisi, who oversaw the launch of a wide-ranging human rights strategy earlier this year, denies that there are political prisoners in Egypt. He says stability and security are paramount and authorities are promoting rights by trying to provide basic needs such as jobs and housing.

Biden has pledged to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy and rights advocates have pushed Washington to get tougher on Sisi, even though ties with Egypt have improved after Cairo’s mediation to help end hostilities in April between Israel and Hamas militants.