Egyptian MPs tell US diplomats they object to State Dept travel warning

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 7 Aug 2017

MP Osama Heikal described the ‎warning as 'misleading and ‎inaccurate'

Heikal and US ambassador
Head of Egypt parliament's Culture, ‎Media and Antiquities Committee ‎Osama Heikal and the US embassy ‎in Cairo's Charge d'Affaires Thomas ‎Goldberger meet in Cairo, 7 August ‎‎2017 (Photo by: Khaled Mashal)‎

MPs from two parliamentary committees have told the US embassy’s chargé d'affaires that they object to a recent US travel notice that warns Americans of threats in Egypt “from ‎terrorist and violent political ‎opposition groups."‎

The head of Egypt parliament's culture, ‎media and antiquities committee, ‎Osama Heikal, told reporters that ‎members of that committee and of the foreign affairs ‎committee took the opportunity to voice their objections at a meeting on ‎Sunday morning with Thomas Goldberger. ‎

Heikal said the meeting came upon ‎the request of the American diplomat.‎

In a statement on 19 July the US Department of State warned "US ‎citizens to consider the risks of ‎travel to Egypt due to threats from ‎terrorist and violent political ‎opposition groups."‎

The statement claimed that "terrorist ‎attacks can occur anywhere in the ‎country, including major ‎metropolitan areas." ‎

In a quick and angry response to the ‎statement, Foreign Minister Sameh ‎Shoukry asked Egypt's embassy ‎in the US to officially object to the ‎US travel warning.
‎In addition, the foreign ministry said in ‎a statement on 21 July that "the US ‎Department of State’s recent travel ‎warning on Egypt is misleading and ‎inaccurate and does not reflect the ‎situation in Egypt."

"The US ‎embassy in Washington handed a ‎letter to the Department of State ‎conveying Egypt's concern over the ‎wording used in the warning, urging ‎them to be accurate and not spread ‎misleading information," the ‎ministry's spokesman Ahmed Abu ‎Zeid said.‎

Heikal told reporters that Egypt's ‎parliament has also sent a letter to ‎the US Congress, voicing objection ‎to the travel warning.

"The letter, ‎sent a few days ago, strongly objected ‎to the travel warning, and for this ‎reason the US embassy's chargé ‎d'affaires requested a meeting with ‎us," said Heikal, adding that "MPs ‎told the US embassy delegation that ‎the travel warning statement was ‎based on inaccurate information, not ‎to mention that it was not issued in ‎coordination with the Egyptian ‎government."‎

‎"We also told Goldberger that the ‎warning came at a very crucial time, while Egypt is fighting a ‎ferocious war against terrorism, and ‎that the inaccurate warning could be ‎used to negatively harm tourism ‎traffic and investment inflow into ‎Egypt," said Heikal.‎

Some MPs said that the US ‎travel warning was exploited by ‎Al Jazeera to tarnish the country's ‎image and warn against tourism.‎

Heikal indicated that MPs also ‎objected in particular to the US ‎warning using the phrase "violent ‎political opposition groups." 

"It ‎seems that those who write these ‎statements in America do not ‎understand the difference between ‎opposition and terrorism, and that ‎most of them are still loyal to the ‎legacy of former US president ‎Barack Obama, who strongly ‎supported political Islam," Heikal ‎said.‎

According to Heikal, MPs told ‎Goldberger that they had ‎reservations about America's role in ‎Egypt and the region when ‎Obama was in office.

"We thought ‎that Obama's departure would lead ‎to improving relations with America, ‎but the latest warning took us by ‎surprise, showing the Obama ‎mentality is still there in America's ‎Department of State and that they ‎are still fond of using their old ‎styles," said Heikal.‎

The meeting was attended by two ‎US embassy officials and Egyptian MPs ‎Dahlia Youssef, Amna Nosseir, ‎Tarek El-Khouli, Injy Fahmi, ‎Mohamed El-Sallab, and Yasmine ‎Abu Taleb.‎ 

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