Washington defends Egypt investment drive, despite human rights concerns

The US has sent its largest-ever trade delegation to Cairo, though a large slice of its annual aid remains frozen
Ayat Al-Tawy /Ahmram Online
November 13,2014

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (Photo: Reuters)
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (Photo: Reuters)

Washington has stated that promoting US investment in Egypt does not preclude it from voicing concerns about the country’s human rights record; nor would it signify moving forward with certifications of additional funding.

The remarks came days after the US sent its largest-ever trade delegation of executives from around 70 companies to Cairo to help prop up the country’s ailing economy.

“International investment in Egypt’s economy supports the Egyptian people, and so we believe that by bringing companies there Egypt’s economic and workforce development is something that can help the people of Egypt,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told a regular press briefing Wednesday.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to have, at the diplomatic level, a conversation about our concerns about their human rights record and the steps they’ve taken to crack down on protesters, et cetera,” Psaki added when asked about what the visit indicates.

The US froze a chunk of its $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt in October 2013 on condition that democratic reforms be enacted following the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and a harsh crackdown on his followers.

Psaki asserted that working to boost Egypt’s economy does not send mixed messages.

“There’s a difference between direct assistance to the government and promoting economic opportunity and business investment that we believe will benefit the people of Egypt, and that’s why we supported this mission and why we led it,” she said.

About $575 million in suspended funds were released in June to pay for defence contracts, and Washington announced in April it planned to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to support Cairo’s counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula. The aircrafts remain in storage in the US.

But Psaki emphasised that Washington still has concerns on Egypt’s democratic reforms amid a cracdown on civil liberities that block the certification of additional funding, whether military or for other programmes, “based on their human rights record or progress that hasn’t been made.”

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