Egypt: US to release held-$195 million military aid

The United States decided to lift restrictions on $195 million military aid held last year over concern on Egypt’s poor human rights record, an official of the US State Department announced Wednesday.

The decision to allow Cairo to use the previously blocked funds is intended to recognize “steps Egypt has taken over the last year in response to specific US concerns” and in the spirit of strengthening the partnership with Egypt, the official said.

The Trump administration last year blocked $195 million of its military aid package to the Arab country citing failure by President Fattah al-Sisi’s government to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.

Washington was irked after the parliament passed a bill that curbs the work of NGOs.

Motives behind the shift have not been disclosed but the official who spoke under condition of anonymity however said preservation of US security cooperation with Egypt, which includes countering militant groups, was part of the rationale for releasing the funds, Reuters reports.

“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,” the official said.

“At the same time, strengthened security cooperation is important to US national security. Secretary Pompeo determined that releasing these funds is important to supporting these needs and continuing to improve our partnership with Egypt.”

Egypt has scored poorly in the States Department’s human rights report released in April. Washington has raised concerns over torture practices, limits on freedom of expression, government control over NGOs and the use of military courts to try civilians, Reuters recalled.

Under the military aid, known as Foreign Military Financing, Egypt will buy US-made military equipment.

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