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Intel: Blinken tells Egypt that human rights are ‘central’ to US relationship

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Feb 23, 2021

Human rights will characteristic considerably within the Biden administration’s relationship with Egypt, Secretary of State Antony Blinken instructed his Egyptian counterpart on Tuesday, per week after Washington greenlit the potential sale of missiles to Cairo.

During his telephone name with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Blinken “raised concerns over human rights, which he emphasized would be central to the US-Egypt bilateral relationship,” State Department spokesman Ned Price mentioned in a press release. 

Blinken additionally expressed concern over Egypt’s deliberate procurement of Su-35 fighter plane from Russia, which the Trump administration had warned put Cairo vulnerable to US sanctions below the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). 

President Joe Biden has pledged to carry rights-abusing international locations accountable, together with Egypt, the place safety forces have reportedly jailed tens of hundreds of presidency critics since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi got here to energy in 2013. Quite a lot of US residents and everlasting residents have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in Egypt, and final week, a coalition of human rights teams accused the Egyptian authorities of intimidating and harassing the members of the family of distinguished activists living within the United States. 

“Our shared security interests must align with respect for democracy and human rights, including the importance of a strong civil society,” Blinken mentioned in a tweet on Tuesday. 

Blinken and Shoukry additionally mentioned on Tuesday the UN-facilitated peace negotiations in Libya, the Middle East peace course of and ongoing counterterrorism cooperation within the Sinai Peninsula, Price mentioned. 

Why it issues: The name — Blinken’s first along with his Egyptian counterpart — comes one week after the Biden administration introduced it had accepted the sale of nearly $200 million value of naval surface-to-air missiles to Cairo, which the State Department justified as bolstering the safety of an ally “that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East.”

Human rights teams had been fast to sentence the timing of the proposed sale, which the Biden administration unveiled the identical day US-Egyptian activist Mohamed Soltan revealed that Egypt had as soon as once more arrested his family in what he mentioned was a marketing campaign to silence him. 

What’s subsequent: As a candidate, Biden vowed “no more blank checks” for Egypt, a rustic that receives roughly $1.three billion in US army help per yr — making it the second-largest recipient of US assist {dollars} after Israel. It stays to be seen whether or not Biden will use any of the annual help as leverage on rights reforms, however there’s rising momentum in Congress to take action. 

In January, Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) introduced the formation of the Egypt Human Rights Caucus, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. The lawmakers referred to as on the Biden administration to interact with Congress on plans for “expanded human rights due diligence” earlier than supplying the Egyptian army with additional weapons.  

Know extra: Elizabeth Hagedorn has the newest on Soltan’s lawsuit in opposition to Egypt’s former prime minister and takes a more in-depth take a look at how US-Egypt relations may change below Biden. 

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