WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is releasing nearly $200 million in military aid to Egypt but will withhold millions more over human rights concerns, the State Department said on Tuesday in an announcement that was immediately criticized by rights groups and some lawmakers.
The department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken would withhold $130 million of the $300 million in military funding for Egypt due to concerns. It said it would allow the rest to maintain US-Egypt security engagement, which Washington believes is critical to Middle East stability.
The $170 million to be released would be sent using the right, requiring the administration to waive the human rights conditions placed on the aid by Congress. Under federal law, the secretary of state must certify that Egypt is meeting those conditions or issue a waiver for aid sent.
The department said Blinken was unable to certify compliance, but added that continued engagement with Egypt is an important US national security interest. The decision was criticized by human rights groups and some lawmakers as the Biden administration has been reneging on promises to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy.
As we continue to discuss our serious concerns about human rights in Egypt, the Secretary of State will not certify that the Egyptian government is taking sustained and effective steps regarding the legislative human rights-related conditions on aid, the department said. .
Nonetheless, it said the administration would provide most of the assistance for border security, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism programs while withholding the remaining $130 million. The department said the withheld amount would be released if the Egyptian government positively addresses the specific human rights-related conditions.
Anticipating criticism of the announcement, which was previewed by some lawmakers on Monday, the State Department said the administration’s human rights concerns about Egypt, which remained in sharp crackdown on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisis’ dissent , are important.
But, it said it was important to maintain a positive relationship with the Sisis government and noted that the new Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, visited Egypt only on Monday. Egypt is one of just two Arab countries that have gone to war with Israel to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
The State Department said that our bilateral relationship with Egypt will be strengthened, and America’s interests will be better served through continued American engagement to advance our national security interests, including addressing our human rights concerns.
Under Sisi, Egypt has seen the heaviest crackdown on dissent in its modern history. Authorities have targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics. Prolonged pretense to keep critics of the government behind bars for as long as possible has become a common practice.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a strong supporter of President Joe Biden who has repeatedly called for human rights terms to be attached and enforced for foreign aid, mourned the decision. He described it as a missed opportunity to stand firmly and clearly for human rights.
“The continuation of our security relationship with Egypt, with only minor changes, sends the wrong message,” Murphy said in a statement. It was an opportunity to send a strong message about America’s commitment to human rights and democracy, with little cost to our security, and we fell short.
A group of 19 human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House also condemned the decision, calling it a terrible blow to its commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
He added that this administration has repeatedly vowed to put human rights at the center of its foreign policy and especially its relationship with Egypt. However, this decision is a betrayal of these commitments.
Disclaimer: This post has been self-published from the agency feed without modification and has not been reviewed by an editor
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