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Sunday, 27 August 2017

What we’re tracking on 27 August 2017

No hard feelings? President Abdel Fattah El Sisi spoke with US President Donald Trump on Thursday evening. Trump called to “underscore the robust friendship relations between Egypt and the U.S., and confirmed his keenness on continuing to further advance relations between the two countries as well as overcoming any hurdles that might affect them,” read a statement from Ittihadiya (pdf). The comments came after the US decided earlier in the week to delay or deny Egypt some USD 290 mm in aid, citing a lack of progress on human rights.

President El Sisi “reiterated the need to continue intensive coordination and consultation between the two countries on all issues of mutual concern.” The move to cut aid broke on Reuters on the eve of the Egyptian leg of White House envoy Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace tour, had caused some drama, with the Foreign Ministry saying the move reflected “poor judgement of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries over long decades.”

So this is really all about North Korea, right? State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert touched on Egypt straight out of the gate at State’s Wednesday, 23 August press briefing (transcript here). Nauert, who said clearly “It’s about human rights” when asked on Wednesday if the aid cut wasn’t really about North Korea, was later pushed by a journo who wasn’t buying that line, noting that “The first ballistic missile [Pyongyang] ever launched came from Egypt.” Her reply: “You know what, I — that predates me here, so I’m not going to comment on that part of it.” By Thursday’s briefing, after stories in the New York Times and Washington Post suggested that yes, it was largely about North Korea, Nauert struck a slightly different tone, saying, “We have conversations with Egypt and many other countries around the world about the need to isolate the DPRK, and we do that because we recognize that countries around the world that do business with North Korea enable money to go into North Korea’s illegal nuclear and ballistic weapons programs. And that is a huge concern of ours and it’s a huge concern to the international community as well.” Egypt is a US ally, she said, “But DPRK overall as a broad matter is a big concern to the United States” (transcript of the Thursday briefing here).

Also in Washington over the weekend: White House advisor fan of Egypt Sebastian Gorka was sacked, according to Reuters. Gorka has previously described President Abdel Fattah El Sisi as “enlightened” and a “reformer” for his part in quelling the Ikhwan, and has been a driving force within the administration to designate the Ikhwan a terrorist organization.

CBE Governor Tarek Amer was named Central Bank Governor of the Year forMiddle East and North Africa by GlobalMarkets, which is running a special issue for the IMF / World Bank fall meetings. Amer was selected for being “the leading architect of Egypt’s IMF program and the driving force behind the exchange rate reform,” GlobalMarkets said in its letter to the governor on the award which ran in Egypt Today. “Amer played a pivotal role in putting the economy on a sustainable path and restoring the confidence of international investors.” The fall IMF and World Bank fall meetings run 9-15 October this year.

Yellen signals to Trump she won’t back down from financial crisis era reforms: Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen defended financial regulations put in place during the global financial crisis in her speech at the annual symposium of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Reuters reports. “The balance of research suggests that the core reforms we have put in place have substantially boosted resilience without unduly limiting credit availability or economic growth,” she said. Media outlets are reading into Yellen’s remarks an implicit rebuke of Trump and his desire to scale back regulations of the financial sector; Bloomberg also has the story.

Public service announcement #1 : Cairo traffic will deteriorate markedly on Saturday, 23 September when the new school year starts for the public school system. An Education Ministry committee made the back-to-school announcement yesterday.

Public service announcement #2: We’re heading into a five-day long weekend for Eid Al-Adha. This coming Thursday is the waqfat Arafat, with the first day of the Eid on Friday, 1 September. Expect to be back at your desk / in the warehouse / at the plant / in your shop on the morning of Tuesday, 5 September. Banks and the stock exchange will be off from Thursday through Monday, inclusive, pursuant to an announcement from the central bank, Al Mal reports.

Public service announcement #3: Make sure your TV is working before Thursday, because it’s time to get excited about the Pharaohs’ chances of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The national team’s road to end a 28 year World Cup drought runs through Kampala on this Thursday (31 August) and then Alexandria on Tuesday, 5 September. Check out the Egypt page on the FIFA site, where we’re presently atop Group E. Then head over the Ghana Soccer Net, which has a frank appraisal of our chances against the Black Stars. Then track the Pharaohs’ journey courtesy of our friends over at King Fut.

The hotly anticipated Connor McGregor / Floyd Mayweather boxing match had yet to begin at dispatch time. Two of three undercard bouts had wrapped, but technical problems with the pay-per-view system had reportedly delayed the main event. One piece worth reading, even if you, like some of us, could care less about these two loudmouths whacking at each other: “Crossing Crumlin Road: Long after he escaped Dublin, Conor McGregor still rebels against its psychic barriers. Small wonder he’s crazy enough to box Floyd Mayweather.”

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