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US suspends $85 million aid to Egypt over political detentions

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The United States has chosen to suspend $85 million in military aid to Egypt as a result of the country’s failure to adhere to certain conditions set by the US government, Reuters reports.

The decision comes in light of concerns over political detainees and other issues. Senator Chris Murphy has also called on the Biden administration to withhold an additional $235 million, and a decision on these funds is expected soon.

US suspends $85 million aid to Egypt over political detentions
President Joe Biden meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, at the COP27 UN Climate Summit, on Friday at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. (AP)

In a congressional notification obtained by Reuters, it was revealed that the United States intends to withhold $85 million in military aid to Egypt. The decision stems from Cairo’s inability to meet the conditions set by the US government, particularly in relation to the release of political prisoners.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, has applauded the move but has also urged the Biden administration to go further and withhold an additional $235 million until further improvements are made in Egypt’s human rights and democracy record.

The State Department has confirmed that $55 million of the withheld aid will be redirected to Taiwan, while the remaining $30 million will be allocated to Lebanon, as stated in a letter sent to congressional committees detailing the foreign military financing.

Egypt has yet to respond to the news, with the embassy in Washington yet to comment on the matter. Nonetheless, Senator Murphy has emphasised the significance of the decision, highlighting the lack of progress in the release of political prisoners and demanding further action to address the human rights concerns in the country.

US suspends $85 million aid to Egypt over political detentions
US suspends $85 million aid to Egypt over political detentions.

Under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has come under heavy scrutiny from international human rights organizations for alleged widespread human rights abuses, including reports of torture and enforced disappearances.

The US decision to suspend aid serves as a display of concern over these long-standing issues, reflecting a commitment to addressing human rights violations globally.

Egypt has made some efforts to address human rights concerns since late 2021, including the launch of a human rights strategy and the termination of a state of emergency. However, some critics have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of these measures.

While some high-profile detainees have been released or pardoned, activists have reported that new detentions have outnumbered releases, and thousands of political prisoners remain in custody. Additionally, restrictions on free speech continue to be a concern.

For many years, the United States has provided Egypt with approximately $1.3 billion in aid annually, primarily for the purchase of U.S. weapons systems and services. This aid is largely a result of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

In recent years, the U.S. Congress has made some aid contingent upon human rights conditions. Under U.S. law, $85 million is dependent on Egypt demonstrating progress in releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process, and preventing the harassment of American citizens. These conditions cannot be waived by the executive branch.

An additional $235 million is conditioned on Egypt meeting democracy and human rights requirements, but this can be waived if the executive branch determines it is in the U.S. national security interest. There is also a loophole that allows the $235 million to be given to Egypt for counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation programs.

Last year, the U.S. withheld $130 million in aid to Egypt, including $85 million that was contingent on progress in political detentions. However, the full $75 million was allowed to go through, and an additional $95 million was given under the counterterrorism exception.

While the withholding of $85 million this year is a positive step, some have expressed concern that withholding less than in previous years could send the wrong message to the Egyptian government.


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