The US State Department declared on Friday that Egypt had not met the conditions to receive the $130 million in foreign military financing that has been on hold since September, adding that the funds would be transferred to other programs.
In announcing the aid reversal, however, the department avoided mentioning the massive $2.5 billion sale of military transport aircraft and radar systems to Cairo that it had approved earlier in the week without any mention of withholding the $130 million, AP reported Saturday.
The State Department revealed the $2.5 billion weapons sale to Egypt on Tuesday, emphasizing that it would “support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East."
“We maintain that our bilateral relationship with Egypt will be stronger, and America’s interests will be better served, through continued US engagement to advance our national security interests, including addressing our human rights concerns,” the department further claimed.
This is while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken approved the release of $300 million in foreign military financing to Egypt back in September but withheld another $130 million unless the government addressed “specific human-rights related conditions” by the end of January, the report noted.
“The deadline for meeting those conditions will soon pass,” the department declared on Friday. “The (government of Egypt) made notable progress on the conditions but to date has not met them all. Therefore, after January 30, the secretary intends to reprogram the $130 million to other national security priorities.”
In response to press inquires about the apparent inconsistency, US officials have claimed that the military aid and the weapons sale are unrelated, arguing that Egypt will shoulder the cost of the $2.2 billion purchase of the 12 Super Hercules C-130 transport aircraft and air defense radar systems worth an estimated $355 million.
According to the report, some Democratic lawmakers in US Congress who had called on Blinken not to approve the $130 million in military aid expressed satisfaction about the Friday's decision, but avoided mentioning the arms sale that dwarfs the amount of the withheld assistance.
“I’m glad the Biden administration held the line by reprogramming these funds," said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. "It sends the important message abroad that we will back up our commitment to human rights with action and gone are the days where dictators receive blank checks from America.”
The Egyptian regime has waged an oppressive crackdown on dissidents in recent years, jailing thousands of people -- mostly Islamic activists -- but also secular opponents who were involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the country’s longtime US- and Israeli-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt imposed a state of emergency in April 2017, following deadly church bombings and attacks on Coptic Christians that killed more than 100 people and wounded scores. It further allowed for arbitrary detentions without warrants, swift prosecution of suspects and the establishment of special courts.
The state of emergency has since been extended several times. However, former army chief and current President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi claimed in October, when the last extension expired, that his government will no longer renew it.