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Egypt slams US decision to pull $96m of military aid

Kushner still set to meet Egypt's president despite Egyptian criticism of 'poor judgement' by the US
US sources say money withheld due to 'lack of progress in key areas, including human rights' (AFP)

Egypt on Wednesday criticised an American decision to withhold millions of dollars of military aid, calling it poor judgment that would affect a decades-long strategic partnership.

The statement came after sources in the US said the government was halting at least $96m of aid due to Cairo's poor record on human rights and democracy.

"Egypt sees this measure as reflecting poor judgment of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries over long decades and as adopting a view that lacks an accurate understanding of the importance of supporting Egypt's stability," the ministry said.

Egypt sees this measure as reflecting poor judgment of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries 

- Foreign ministry statement

The foreign ministry cancelled a meeting between Donald Trump's adviser, Jared Kushner, and Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry.

However, Kushner and his delegation were set to meet the president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, later in the day as scheduled, Sisi's office said.

Two US sources told Reuters on Tuesday that US authorities would deny Egypt $95.7m in aid and delay a further $195m payment over its failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms.

The US sources told Reuters the decision to deny aid reflected a desire to continue security cooperation as well as frustration with Cairo's stance on civil liberties, notably a new law that regulates non-governmental organisations that is widely seen as part of a growing crackdown on dissent.

US officials were especially unhappy that Sisi in May allowed the NGO law to go into effect. Human rights groups and activists have said that it effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate.

"Strengthened security cooperation with Egypt is important to US national security," said one source, adding that the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, felt "it was in the interests of the US to exercise the waiver".

"We remain concerned about Egypt’s lack of progress in key areas, including human rights and the new NGO law," the source said.

Egyptian rights activists have said they face the worst crackdown in their history under Sisi, accusing him of erasing freedoms won in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

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