Egypt: The United States wants to put human rights back at the center of its relations with Egypt even though it remains a valuable strategic ally
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Agence Ecofin
Thursday 16 September 2021 Last update on Thursday, September 16, 2021 At 12:44 PM

Since Marshal al-Sisi came to power, many elected officials have called on Washington to put human rights back at the center of its dealings with Egypt. Although the new decision appears to be set against the attitude of the Trump administration, it is still considered insufficient.

The United States is preparing to freeze $ 130 million in military aid to Egypt, corroborating media sources have heard.

According to a source familiar with the matter, this decision is linked to humanitarian issues. Indeed, Washington would demand from its Arab ally, guarantees concerning the respect of human rights before unblocking this new military aid.

“We continue to discuss our serious human rights concerns in Egypt,” a State Department spokesperson quoted by Reuters said, adding that the funds will be released if “the Egyptian government responds affirmatively. under specific human rights conditions ”.

Although this announcement does not call into question the fairly strong American-Egyptian relations, particularly in the security field, it is part of a logic of breaking with the more or less conciliatory attitude of the previous American administration with Cairo. As a reminder, former US President Donald Trump had praised the merits of his relations with Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom he publicly designated as his “favorite dictator” even as he faced harsh criticism concerning human rights.

However, at the level of relations between the two countries, the decision of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is seen by many activists as a minimum step. Indeed, the amount targeted by the suspension measure represents only 10% of the total of $ 1.3 billion in military aid that the United States grants to Egypt each year. In addition, it represents barely half of the $ 300 million in annual aid that the US Congress has called for restrictions from the White House.

An essential ally

It should be noted that for the United States, Egypt has always been a strategic ally. The most populous Arab country, its geostrategic position in North Africa where it controls the busy Suez Canal as well as its relations with Israel and Palestine make it a major support in Africa and the Arab world, for security reasons and obvious commercials. This situation, coupled with the risk of seeing Cairo turn definitively to Moscow or Beijing, has often made it difficult to adopt American sanctions against the land of the Pharaohs, despite the numerous accusations of human rights violations against President al-Sisi. .

In 2013, President Obama had also suspended part of American military aid to the country asking for “credible progress” towards democracy, before canceling the measure 2 years later, citing “the interest of US national security ”. In addition, last February, a few weeks after coming to power, Joe Biden had to validate the sale of $ 197 million of missiles to Egypt, contrary to his promise to put the question of human rights at the heart. of this type of transaction with the regime in place.

” It is a mistake. Egypt has 60,000 political prisoners, and opponents are being tortured, ”Democratic Senator Chris Murphy said on twitter to the news. He added, “The government should have frozen the entire $ 300 million. This half-taken measure sends a vague message about our commitment to respect for human rights and democracy ”.

Note that the US is not the only country whose relations with Egypt are controversial. French President Emmanuel Macron had to clarify the trade relations between his country and Egypt at the end of 2020, refusing to make his cooperation with the al-Sisi government in matters of defense conditional on respect for human rights, because “such policy would weaken Cairo in the fight against terrorism ”.

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