WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is set to deny US$130 million of military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, three sources familiar with the decision told Reuters.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in September that the aid would be withheld if Egypt did not address specific human-rights related conditions.
Rights groups had called on the administration to block the entire US$300 million of Foreign Military Financing to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has tightened in recent years.
One source said members of Congress had been briefed on the administration’s decision to withhold the aid, which accounts for 10 per cent of the US$1.3 billion that Egypt is still expected to receive from the United States this year. As of now there are no plans to withhold the rest of that aid, the source said.
US Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat and an ally of President Joe Biden, welcomed the decision, and said Sisi had failed to meet the administration’s “narrow and wholly achievable human rights conditions”.
“It sends the important message abroad that we will back up our commitment to human rights with action and gone are the days where dictators receive blank checks from America,” Murphy said in a statement.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the aid in a press briefing on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken had yet to make a determination.
“We believe that continued progress when it comes to human rights would only strengthen our bilateral relationship with Egypt,” Price said.
The decision comes after the administration approved the potential sale of air defense radars and C-130 Super Hercules planes to Egypt for a combined value of more than US$2.5 billion.
Price said on Thursday an approved sale was distinct from the granting of military aid, and would allow Egypt to purchase “equipment that is defensive in nature” to be used in peacekeeping operations.