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US approves major arms sale to Egypt despite rights concerns

A US Air Force (USAF) Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules aircraft takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris June 24, 2011. (Reuters photo)

The administration of US President Joe Biden has approved $2.5 billion in proposed arms sales to Egypt in spite of ongoing concerns over human rights.

The approval announced by the State Department on Tuesday came just hours after congressional Democrats called on the administration not to release a much smaller package of military assistance which had been put on hold last year pending the Egyptian government meeting certain rights-related conditions.

The State Department said Tuesday's sale was not related to $130 million in foreign military financing that was frozen in September and remains in limbo.

The department approved a $2.2 billion sale to Cairo for 12 C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft and related equipment as well as a separate $355 million sale for three SPS-48 Land Based Radars and equipment.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East,” reads the press release for both sales.

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

“The Egyptian government must meet the administration’s conditions in full by the communicated deadline,” Meeks and his colleagues said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “If not, we urge you to stand by your word and immediately reprogram withheld funds.”

Meanwhile, Murphy said, “Egypt looks unlikely and unwilling to meet the narrow conditions on the remaining $130 million in military aid by the deadline, while the human rights situation more broadly has only deteriorated over the last few months.”

The government in Cairo has long faced criticism over its human rights record.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who overthrew the democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has been serving as the president since 2014.

He has faced international criticism for a crackdown on civil society groups and for crushing any form of dissent against his autocratic rule.

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