US approves major arms sale to Egypt despite rights issues – KLBK | KAMC

FILE – Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi delivers his speech during celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on Friday, November 12, 2021. The Biden administration on Tuesday, January 25, 2022, approved a massive $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt despite ongoing human rights concerns. (Julien de Rosa, Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Tuesday approved a massive $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt despite lingering human rights concerns.

The sales were announced just hours after congressional Democrats urged the administration not to release a much smaller package of military assistance that was put on hold last year pending the Egyptian government meeting certain related conditions. to rights.

The State Department said Tuesday’s sale was unrelated to $130 million in foreign military funding that was frozen in September and remains in limbo.

But the size of the sale has eclipsed the amount of aid withheld and is likely to draw criticism from lawmakers who are calling on the administration to keep promises to tie arms transfers to countries meeting minimum standards. of human rights.

Tuesday’s sale included 12 C-130 Super Hercules transport planes and related equipment worth $2.2 billion, and air defense radar systems worth an estimated $355 million.

“This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East,” said the State Department.

“We maintain that our bilateral relationship with Egypt will be stronger and U.S. interests will be better served through the United States’ continued commitment to advancing our national security interests, including addressing our security concerns. human rights,” he said.

Shortly before the announcement of the sale, a group of six House Democrats, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn ., called on the administration to insist that Egypt meet human rights criteria for military transfers.

“While we acknowledge and reaffirm the significant steps Egypt has taken in recent weeks to address these concerns by releasing certain political prisoners and unjustly detained individuals, the Egyptian government must fully comply with the terms of the administration before the deadline. communicated,” Meeks and his colleagues said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“If not, we urge you to keep your word and immediately reprogram the funds withheld,” they said.

Meanwhile, Murphy said: “Egypt appears unlikely and unwilling to meet the narrow conditions on the remaining $130 million in military aid before the deadline, as the human rights situation in general has only deteriorated in recent months”.

“If Egypt does not meet all the conditions, the administration must stand firm and show the world that our actions live up to our stated commitment to democracy and human rights,” Murphy said.

In September, Blinken announced that the administration would continue to provide Egypt with $300 million in foreign military funding, but would withhold an additional $130 million until the government “positively addresses the terms related to human rights”.

It was not immediately clear whether Tuesday’s arms sale indicated that Blinken had decided that Egypt had satisfactorily resolved those issues.

The Egyptian government has carried out a large-scale crackdown on dissent in recent years, jailing thousands of people, mostly Islamists but also secular activists involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the longtime autocrat of country, Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt imposed a state of emergency in April 2017, following deadly bombings on churches and attacks on Coptic Christians that left more than 100 people dead and dozens injured. It allowed arrests without warrants, rapid prosecution of suspects and the creation of special courts.

The state of emergency has since been extended several times. However, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced in October, when the last extension expired, that his government would no longer renew it.

Martin E. Berry