US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Cairo has a lot to do in the field of human rights, while his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry affirmed that Egypt under Sisi is making its way to a more democratic state.
Blinken announced – in a press conference with the Egyptian Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the US-Egypt strategic dialogue in Washington on Monday – that the strategic dialogue between the United States and Egypt is the first since 2015.
Since 1998, the “Strategic Dialogue between Egypt and the United States” has been held regularly, and the last time was held in Cairo on August 2, 2015 under the chairmanship of Shoukry and his then US counterpart John Kerry.
Blinken said at the press conference that Washington will work to “strengthen freedom of expression and the press” in Egypt, stressing that the US-Egyptian relationship is “strong and solid.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry showed some resistance to Washington’s pressure, saying that human rights must be balanced with other considerations, stressing the importance of stability.
Last September, Blinken announced that the United States would withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt until President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government took action on human rights.
Egypt did not receive an invitation to a summit for democracy to be held by US President Joe Biden next month.
On Monday, Blinken praised Egypt for launching a national human rights strategy, and said the United States and Egypt are working together to reform the pretrial detention system and protect press freedom and freedom of expression in the country.
“There are also other issues of concern, and more areas in which positive steps can be taken, not only because the United States or others request it, but because it is in the interest of the Egyptian people,” Blinken said.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that the dialogue with Egypt would include discussing specific issues related to human rights, but he refused to specify those issues.
“We have informed the Egyptian leaders of specific steps that we have encouraged them to take. Of course, this was done in secret, but very clearly,” Price added.
A group of experts on Egypt’s affairs wrote to Blinken on Monday calling on him to “talk frankly about Egypt’s human rights record” and put pressure on the Egyptian delegation visiting Washington to achieve serious reforms.
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Speaking alongside Blinken, Shoukry said that Egypt under Sisi is making its way to a more democratic state, but there should be equal attention to economic and social rights alongside political rights and civil liberties.
He added that there was a need for mutual monitoring regarding the challenges faced by our “communities”.
He said that the experience of the past ten years shows that protecting social harmony and the territorial integrity of the nation state as well as maintaining the stability and effectiveness of its institutions is vital to fulfilling the aspirations of change and modernization and addressing the rise of identity-based politics and sectarian divisions.
Shoukry stressed the existence of “American-Egyptian cooperation to achieve peace in the region,” and that Egypt is a “reliable partner of the United States in the Middle East.”
He said that Egyptian-American relations “did not go off track, despite the difficulties in the region.”
He added, “The Middle East region faces many challenges, and we cooperate with the United States in combating terrorism and extremism,” and said that Egypt is working to “strengthen relations with the United States, especially in the fields of energy, technology and education.”