Cairo slams US senate hearing suggesting a 'review' of aid to Egypt

Ayat Al Tawy , Thursday 27 Apr 2017

File photo of the US Senate (Reuters)

Egypt has slammed a US Senate hearing held earlier this week – which suggested that Washington reconsider its relationship with Cairo given Egypt's poor human rights record – as deliberately aiming to present a negative image of the situation in the country.

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement on Thursday that the hearing was held "with the aim of harming the positive ties between Egypt and the US administration."

Abu Zeid said that the three experts invited to testify before the panel are known for their "absolute bias" against Egypt and their "siding with foreign powers aiming to destabilise" the country.

The spokesman expressed his "great regret for the way the meeting was organised, which sharply deviated from of the usual pattern of such meetings over the years, leading to… a negative reading of the situation in Egypt."

The hearing by the senate Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs was held on Tuesday to review the US military aid for Egypt.

The three experts who testified at the hearing were Michele Dunne, Senior Fellow and Director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and long-time Middle East expert at the State Department; Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Council on Foreign Relations who served in the George W. Bush administration; and Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy under president Barack Obama.

All three called for re-examining foreign assistance priorities and shaping a new approach to US-Egypt ties amid the "deteriorating" security, economic, and political conditions.

"The new approach should have a tighter focus on the most pressing threats to Egypt’s stability: terrorism, but also inadequate education, unemployment, and the destruction of civil society," Dunne said in her testimony.

"The US government should ensure that its assistance is neither wasted nor complicit in exacerbating the country’s problems."

Abrams said he believes that the current policies of the Egyptian government "almost guarantee that terrorism will continue and may indeed expand."

Cairo is one of Washington's closest Middle East allies.

The US has been providing Egypt with foreign aid, including military assistance, since the Arab country's 1979 peace deal with Israel.

Annual military assistance to Cairo has averaged at $1.3 billion since the late 1980s.

In 2013, however, ties grew strained under former US president Obama, who briefly suspended military aid after the ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

During the hearing, Abrams said the US military assistance program "is pretty much irrelevant to the effort to combat terror in Egypt," and said that a review of the aid is necessary to ensure that it is in line with Washington's goals.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said last month during a visit to Washington that the continuation of US aid is crucial for Egypt in its fight against terrorism and efforts to maintain stability and peace in the region.

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