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Jared Kushner gets meeting with Egyptian leader after reduction in US aid sparks criticism by Cairo

The American delegation, headed by Kushner, who is also the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, stopped in Cairo as part of a Mideast tour to press Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 August, 2017, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 2:57am

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met US presidential adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday after the United States decided to withhold millions of dollars in aid to the Arab country.

Kushner, son-in-law of US President Donald Trump and one of his close advisers, met Sisi with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri present, Sisi’s office said in a statement.

Kushner’s visit, part of a wider Middle East trip, had been scheduled before the US aid decision was announced and had been billed as an opportunity for discussing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Neither the presidency nor the foreign ministry mentioned the aid issue in statements released after the meetings, though the foreign ministry had earlier criticised the decision, saying it would have an impact on achieving common goals.

“Egypt sees this measure as reflecting poor judgment of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries over long decades and as adopting a view that lacks an accurate understanding of the importance of supporting Egypt’s stability,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The decision could have “negative implications” on achieving common goals and interests between the two countries, it added.

Soon after this foreign ministry statement, a one-on-one meeting between Shoukry and Kushner was removed from the schedule. But the two men later met separately after the joint meeting involving Sisi.

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The protest came after the Trump administration on Tuesday cut nearly US$100 million in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost US$200 million more in military financing, pending human rights improvements and action to ease harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups.

The American delegation included Jason Greenblatt, US envoy for international negotiations, and Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser, according to the presidency.

Egypt is among the top recipients of US military and economic assistance. It receives US$1.3 billion annually in aid, plus hundreds of millions in economic assistance.

Egyptian authorities have clamped down on civil society, particularly human rights groups and other organisations that receive foreign funding. Such groups played a central role in the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak, and pro-government media often present them as part of a conspiracy to undermine the state.

The authorities also arrested thousands of people in the months following the 2013 overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, mainly his Islamist supporters but also a number of secular and liberal activists.

When Trump met with Sisi in the White House in April he made no mention of Egypt’s human rights record in the post-meeting statement, an omission that many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration. Yet, two months later, two senators from Trump’s Republican Party slammed as “draconian” a new Egyptian law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental organisations and urged that it be repealed.

The law has triggered wide international backlash and raised concerns over human rights conditions in Egypt. But Egypt has defended the law, saying it was drafted and passed in accordance with constitutional provisions.

Sisi is grappling with an insurgency by Islamic militants in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, an economy struggling to keep up with demands and employment needs of Egypt’s surging population, and a sustained campaign of violence against the country’s Christian minority.