By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration will work with the U.S. Congress on military aid and arms sales to Egypt, the State Department said on Wednesday, after the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he would block the aid over human rights concerns.
Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Cardin on Tuesday said a “hold on current funds will remain” until Egypt makes progress on human rights issues including its pre-trial detention practices and the thousands of political prisoners held in the country.
“We’re going to continue to engage closely with not only the Egyptian government but also Congress about how these funds will be used, consistent with our commitment to a US-Egypt strategic partnership that advances our shared vision for a secure and prosperous region, and one that enables tangible and sustained progress on human rights issues,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters.
Reuters first reported on Saturday that Cardin intended to hold back some funds despite an announcement earlier this month that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had waived human rights restrictions on $235 million of the aid, citing security benefits to the United States. It is currently withholding $85 million of the aid, a fraction of the $1.3 billion a year allocated for Egypt.
Patel declined to say what impact Cardin’s announcement would have.
“This is a process that we’re working through with the Congress,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Mark Porter)