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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Washington backs Egypt’s war on terrorism, says Tillerson

Washington stands by Egypt and is “committed” to supporting it in its war on terrorism, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said yesterday after meeting with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, according to an Ittihadiya statement (pdf). “The President noted that Egypt looks forward to forging closer economic cooperation with the US and to increasing American investments in Egypt,” read the statement.

Tillerson pledged that the US would continue to provide military and economic support to Egypt. Speaking at a press conference in Cairo on the first leg of his Middle East tour, Tillerson said that the US had provided Egypt with bns in military assistance. He did not, however, mention the near USD 300 mn in military assistance the US froze last year, citing human rights concerns.

…Foreign aid cuts expected, except for ‘friends’: His statements come as foreign aid workers expect US assistance to decrease sharply in the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal, especially after the Donald threatened to cut aid from countries that do not support US policies, according to the Washington Post. Analysts, including the Heritage Foundation’s Brett Schaefer, say that the move would not apply to strong US allies, among them Egypt, Jordan and Afghanistan.

Tillerson also stressed the need for free and fair elections in all countries, but did not comment directly on Egypt’s March presidential vote. Foreign Sameh Shoukry said during the conference that Egypt was committed to fair elections and upholding human rights.

As for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Tillerson said Washington remained committed to working for the peace process, adding that Trump’s recent decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem did not set final boundaries for the city. He added that the final boundaries need to be decided by both sides. El Sisi had urged in his meeting with Tillerson the US to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process “in line with international resolutions.”

Tillerson also commented on North Korea, saying that “it’s too early to tell” if recent signs of overture between North and South Korea at the Olympics mean that a genuine political process is beginning.

Shoukry added that Egypt and the US would hold 2 plus 2 talks on strategic cooperation sometime in the second half of the year.

You can catch the full press conference here (watch, runtime: 25:39).

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