Trump Administration Withholds Nearly $300m in Egyptian Aid

The money is being withheld amid concerns over Egypt's human rights record, as well as the strengthening of its ties with North Korea

File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Riyadh, May 21, 2017.
Evan Vucci/AP

The Trump administration is denying $96 million in aid to Egypt and delaying another $195 million in military funding because of concerns over its human rights record and strengthening of its ties with North Korea.

In response, Cairo said the decision could have negative consequences for the mutual interests of the two countries, and canceled a meeting that had been scheduled between Egyptian Foreign Minister Samah Shoukry and U.S. President Donald Trump’s aide and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. However, a meeting between Kushner and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi took place as scheduled.

The U.S. State Department confirmed that aid to Egypt was being reduced because of what it called Egypt’s lack of progress on human rights and a new law restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations. Its statement did not refer specifically to the relationship between Egypt and North Korea, but said that issues in dispute had been raised with Cairo.

Trump had praised Sissi when the two met in the White House in April. “We are very much behind President el-Sissi,” Trump said at the time. “He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it was unusual for the Trump administration to be taking punitive steps toward Egypt, given the support Trump had given Sissi. “I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypt’s human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new,” Satloff said.

Egypt has been close with North Korea since at least the 1970s. North Korean pilots trained Egyptian fighter pilots before the Yom Kippur War, and Egypt was later accused of supplying Scud missiles to Pyongyang.

On Tuesday Kushner and a U.S. delegation met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman. During the meeting, which took place in connection with another effort by the Trump administration to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Abdullah told Kushner that the two-state solution is “the only way to end the conflict.”

In its statement, the royal court said that the meeting, attended also by Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Jason Greenblatt, and by Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, “focused on efforts to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and re-launch serious and effective negotiations between the two sides based on the two-state solution.” However, after seven months in office, the Trump administration has yet to express support for the two-state solution, which is greatly frustrating the Palestinian leadership.

The U.S. delegation also visited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The White House did not issue a statement about the meeting, while the Saudi side said only that “both sides’ leadership affirmed their commitment to strengthening their relationship and close cooperation. The two sides also agreed to support their efforts aimed at achieving real and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”