The Biden administration has notified Congress that it will withhold $85 million in aid to Egypt that had been conditioned on Cairo’s progress in its treatment of political prisoners, instead diverting that money to Taiwan and Lebanon, sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN.
The administration said it would redirect $55 million worth of that funding to Taiwan and $30 million to Lebanon, the sources said.
However, the administration will allow Cairo to access $235 million of the total of $320 million in foreign military financing that is conditioned on human rights issues, a senior State Department official said Thursday.
The US provides more than $1 billion in foreign military financing to Egypt and the vast majority of it is not conditional.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken “determined that it is in the US national security interest to waive certain human rights related conditions” and allow the $235 million to go to Egypt.
“What I’m describing today reflects our current assessment that Egypt’s cooperation merits the national security waiver for fiscal year 2022,” the official said.
“Our position on the very serious human rights situation in Egypt absolutely has not changed and we’re going to continue to raise those issues in Egypt consistently and at the most senior levels,” they added.
The conditions around the $85 million – “that Egypt is making clear and consistent progress in relieving political prisoners, providing detainees with due process and preventing harassment of American citizens” – cannot be waived, the official explained.
“The Secretary is determined that Egypt has not fulfilled his conditions and therefore we are reprogramming that 85 million,” the official said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the redirection of the funds.
Last month, a group of 11 House Foreign Affairs Committee Democrats called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to withhold all $320 million in conditional foreign military financing over concerns about Cairo’s human rights abuses.
“We acknowledge the historic, deeply rooted bilateral U.S. – Egypt relationship, based in shared social, economic, and political ties,” wrote the lawmakers, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Rep. Gregory Meeks.
“Nonetheless, we are strongly concerned by reports from both the State Department as well as numerous credible human rights and civil society organizations about the persistent and continued systemic violations of human rights in Egypt,” the letter continued.
“As we continue to stand for the prioritization of basic human rights in our foreign policy and call on the Administration to adhere to the spirit and letter of the law in ensuring progress in the U.S.–Egypt relationship, we call on you to withhold the full $320 million of FY22 FMF until Egypt’s human rights record significantly improves,” it concluded.
Meanwhile, the administration has been working to bolster Taiwan’s defense capabilities in preparation for a potential conflict with China, and in July announced a new weapons package for the self-governing island valued at up to $345 million.