Trump tells Sisi he is keen to overcome obstacles


US President Donald Trump called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday and said he was keen to overcome obstacles in the way of co-operation, just days after the US said it would withhold some financial aid to Egypt.

“President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a phone call from US President Donald Trump who affirmed the strength of the friendship between Egypt and the United States and expressed his keenness on continuing to develop the relationship and overcome obstacles that might affect it,” Sisi’s office said in a statement.

On Tuesday, two US sources familiar with the matter told Reuters Washington had decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million because it failed to make progress on respecting human rights and democracy.

Egypt, an important regional partner for the United States because of its control of the Suez Canal and its border with Israel, receives $1.3 billion in aid annually and was critical of the US decision.

Its foreign ministry said the decision to withhold aid reflected “poor judgement” and could have “negative implications” on common goals and interests between the two countries.

The decision reflects a US desire to continue security co-operation as well as its frustration with Cairo’s stance on civil liberties. In particular, a new law regulating non-governmental organisations is widely seen as part a growing crackdown on dissent, said the US sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Egyptian rights activists have said they face the worst crackdown in their history under Sisi, accusing him of erasing freedoms won in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Egyptian lawmakers said the NGO law was needed for national security. The Egyptian government has long accused human rights groups of taking foreign funds to sow chaos and several are facing investigation regarding their funding.

Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner in Cairo on Wednesday but neither the presidency nor the ministry mentioned the aid issue in statements released after the meetings.