Egypt says US gave just 'a few hours' notice before announcing massive aid cuts

Ahram Online , Sunday 27 Aug 2017

Egypt's foreign ministry described the US decision to withhold $195 million in aid and cut $95 million as a "misjudgement" in its relations with a strategic partner

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on August 21, 2017 AFP

Egypt’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was given just "a few hours" notice of planned cuts in US aid before the move was made public by the US.

According to a ministry statement, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson informed Shoukry that US had decided to cut millions in aid and withhold more – but he failed to give adequate notice.

On 23 August, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told journalists that the US would be holding back $195 million pending hoped-for improvements in Egypt's performance on "democracy".

Nauert also announced that $95 million in funding for Egypt would be redirected to other US partners in the region.

Egypt normally receives $1.3 billion annually in military assistance from the United States and nearly $250 million in economic aid.

The Egyptian foreign ministry statement on Sunday denied reports that Egypt had sufficient prior notice of the planned reduction in aid, insisting that it was informed just hours before the US State Department went public.

When the cuts were announced on 23 August, Nauert denied that the Egyptian government had been "caught off-guard" by the move.

She told journalists at a Washington press briefing: "They weren’t caught off guard, and that’s because the Secretary had a conversation with the foreign minister of Egypt and provided a heads-up as to what would be taking place."

However, Nauert did not clarify how much notice the US had given to the Egyptian government.

Egypt later described the US move as a “misjudgement about the nature of strategic relations” that have bound the two countries for two decades.

The State Department's actions follow a US Senate hearing in April on the question of human rights and democracy in Egypt, with some insisting that aid cuts should be used as leverage to achieve change within Egypt.

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