Following a warm period of relations between Egypt and the US since the election of President Donald Trump, Egypt said on Wednesday it regrets the US’s withdrawal of military and financial aids.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s statement comes after a Tuesday Reuters report citing two anonymous sources who said the US will “deny Egypt $95.7million in aid and to delay a further $195 million because of its failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.”
Egypt said that the measure reflects an imprecise understanding of the “strategic relations between the two countries.” The statement, which was released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the decision to cut the aids shows that the measures lacked understanding of “the importance of Egypt’s stability and the amount of security and economic challenges” the country is facing.
The measures, the statements added, “will have negative results on Egyptian-American common interests.”
Sources in the Egyptian parliament said, on condition of anonymity, that the concerned committees in the parliament will discuss the suspension of the aids, while adding that the decision will have negative impacts on the relations between the two countries.
Tarek El-Khouly, a member in the parliament’s Committee of Foreign Affairs, said in press statement on Wednesday that “human rights is no longer a tool to pressure and interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt.” He added that the measures is ignoring the sacrifices of the Egyptian people who sacrificed to fight the terrorism, which “the Obama administration helped creating.”
He added that cutting the aids contradicts the US’s policy to counter terrorism
The ministry, however, said that it hopes the American administration “recognises and respects the vital importance of the Assistance Programme to both countries’ common interests, and maintains the strong relationship between the two nations.”
In what is thought to be a protest to the aids cut, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rescheduled the meetings of minister Shoukry, hence cancelling his meeting with Kushner at 2.00pm. Instead, Shoukry scheduled to meet Mohamed Ali Al-Hakim, the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
Although President Al-Sisi was warmly welcomed and praised by his American counterpart last May in an official visit in the White House, Reuters quoted sources saying that “the decision reflects a US desire to continue security cooperation as well as frustration with Cairo’s stance on civil liberties.”
The report singled out the new Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) Law, which President Al-Sisi ratified last May, despite criticism from NGO workers who cited that the law makes it difficult for NGOs, when it comes to their registration, paperwork, and starting capital, adding that this will enable the interference of security agencies.
In June, after the law was ratified, two American senators, Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham slammed the passing, describing it as giving way for “draconian” measures, while calling on President Al-Sisi to amend the law for it to meet internationally acknowledged standards.
Although local media and pro-state outlets have been rejoicing the “boom” in the relations between the two countries, especially after the loss of Hillary Clinton, who was critical of some human rights practices, the American official bodies, other than the presidency, such the US State Department and the Congress, have been vocally citing violations.
Last April, Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry criticised the Senate’s hearings, which aimed to present an assessment of the financial aid presented to Egypt from the United States. American researcher Michele Dunne, former US ambassador to Egypt Daniel Kurtzer, and former US state department official Dennis Ross pointed out alleged human rights violations in Egypt, an issue which the Foreign Ministry considered as “partisan” and an intentional act of negatively interpreting the situation.
At the time, the speakers were questioned by senators about the continuation or suspension of aid to Egypt. Opinions varied, with a state of polarization overwhelming the views of the senators.
In March the US State Department’s annual report of human rights report said, “the most common human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties. Excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture.”
The report which cited the cases of the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni and Magdy Makeen, and other accusations, was described by the Egyptian foreign ministry’s spokesperson, Ahmed Abou Zaid, as an American method that is based on internal regulations and that is not related to the legal context and structure which Egypt abides by.
One of the cases where Al-Sisi and Trump discussed during their meetings was the situation of American citizen Aya Hegazy, the founder of the Beladi Foundation. She spent three years in prison pending trial and was released after being acquitted. Hegazy was later received in the US by president Donald Trump at the White House.
Another case was the “NGOs’ foreign funding” case which dates back to December 2011 when prosecutors, backed by the police, stormed the offices of 17 local and international NGOs, including the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House. The NGOs were being investigated for allegedly receiving illegal foreign funding.