Until Egypt takes specific steps related to human rights, the Biden administration has said it will withhold $130 million worth of military aid to Cairo, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday.
In an emailed statement, the State Department spokesperson said “We are continuing to discuss our serious concerns about human rights in Egypt.”
The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken “will move forward with the use of $130 million if the Government of Egypt affirmatively addresses specific human-rights related conditions,” the statement added.
In the past, an exception was granted to free up Foreign Military Financing for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, worth $300 million this fiscal year on the basis that it was in the interest of U.S. national security.
But rights groups, which had called on the administration to block the entire $300 million aid, expressed disappointment at the decision, saying it was a “betrayal” of the U.S. commitment to promote human rights.
According to a congressional research report, $1.3 billion in foreign assistance to Egypt has been provided annually by U.S. since the 2017 fiscal year.
President Joe Biden has pledged to put human rights at the heart of his foreign policy, but rights activists say while his increased emphasis on the issue is an improvement from the position of his predecessor Donald Trump, Biden has so far refrained from impactful action.
“If the administration’s dedication to human rights were sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold the $300 million in military aid as conditioned by Congress to incentivize al-Sisi to change course,” said a joint statement from nearly two dozen rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s move is a break with his predecessors’ policy of overriding a congressional check on military aid to Egypt.