Egypt today criticised a US decision to reduce financial aid and withhold some military assistance as a “misjudgment” of strategic ties between the two allies. The foreign ministry said it “regrets the decision” to reduce some funds allocated under a US assistance programme and withhold the disbursement of other military aid. It provided no details of the cuts, but US media reports said Washington on Tuesday denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding because of concerns over its human rights record.
“Egypt considers this step as a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. The move “reflects the lack of understanding of the importance of supporting the stability and success of Egypt” and “implies a mixing of cards that may have negative repercussions,” it said. The New York Times quoted the State Department as saying the move followed a lack progress on human rights and a new law restricting activities of nongovernmental organisations. US President Donald Trump’s arrival in office earlier this year initially saw an improvement in relations with Egypt, after his predecessor Barack Obama had given President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the cold shoulder over rights issues. Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters that followed.
Sisi in May ratified the NGO law, which critics say will severly restrict the work of civil society, including by banning the carrying out and publishing of studies without prior permission from the state, with large fines for violating the law. Trump set aside criticism of Sisi’s rights record while pledging to maintain support for the key US ally, which receives an annual $1.3 billion in military aid. Egyptian authorities have been fighting an insurgency based in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, where an Islamic State group affiliate has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen. The Pentagon is also concerned with preventing jihadists from crossing Libya’s porous border with Egypt.