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Thursday, 26 July 2018

US releases USD 195 mn in military aid to Egypt

US releases USD 195 mn in military aid to Egypt: The US government has released USD 195 mn in military aid to Egypt it froze last year, the State Department announced Wednesday, according to the AP. The decision to unfreeze the funds follows steps Egypt has taken in response to specific US concerns, and stronger ties between both countries in security and counterterrorism, the State Department said. “Secretary Pompeo determined that releasing these funds is important to supporting these needs and continuing to improve our partnership with Egypt,” said a State Department official. The move apparently came following a visit by an Armed Forces delegation to Washington, DC, sources with knowledge of the matter tell Ahram Online. The visiting delegation has been in week-long talks with various state officials trying to reverse the decision.

Background: Last August, the US had unceremoniously withheld USD 95.7 mn in aid and delayed the USD 195 mn in military assistance, citing human rights concerns. Analysts had seen at the time that move was aimed more at curbing Egypt’s alleged ties to North Korea, especially considering the improvement in US-Egypt ties following Donald Trump’s election.

Human rights is still an issue apparently: "We have serious concerns regarding human rights and governance in Egypt, and we will continue to use the many tools at our disposal to raise these concerns," a State Department official told Reuters.

The story has topped coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning, with the focus being on human rights. Most of the coverage, including from the Wall Street Journal, attribute the aid freeze to the Trump Administration’s frustration over the passing of the NGOs Act. “It’s a signal: Don’t pay attention to anything we say in the future,” said Michele Dunne, a former State Department official who is now director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Human rights groups and publications, including the US-based Human Rights First has denounced the move.

This came as Investment Minister Sahar Nasr signed USD 45 mn-worth of agreements with the USAID yesterday, according to a ministry statement.The five agreements include two grants worth USD 27 mn and USD 4 mn each for higher education initiatives; a USD 5.3 mn grant for governance programs; a USD 5 mn grant for the Health Ministry’s family planning program; and a USD 3.5 mn grant to support local farmers.

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