Trump's son-in-law and the White House "global peace" adviser, Jared Kushner, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday only to learn that his top-level meeting with Egyptian officials had apparently been cancelled, as Egypt lashed out at the Trump administration's decision to slash aid to the country.
One day after Reuters reports that the US canceled (or at least delayed) nearly $300 million in aid meant for Egypt on the grounds that its strongman ruler Abdel Fattah al-Sisi "hasn’t been respecting human rights and democratic norms" the Egyptian government responded by canceling a meeting between its foreign minister and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner that was set for today. Kushner is famously responsible for the administration’s dealings in the Middle East. However, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office said the president would still meet the U.S. delegation, led by Kushner, later in the day as scheduled, according to Reuters.
Top Egyptian officials believe the US’ decision to deny the aid package was "insensitive" to the valuable strategic relationship that the two countries have shared for decades. Or, simply stated, Egypt wants the periodic handouts established under the Obama administration to continue.
In a statement released Wednesday, just prior to the confusion over Kushner's meetings with the foreign minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hinted that the significant reduction in aid money from Washington could impact cooperation in many areas, and that withdrawing the aid money lacked “an accurate understanding of the importance of supporting Egypt’s stability.
"Egypt considers this step as a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades," the ministry statement said. "It also underestimates the size and nature of the economic and security challenges facing the Egyptian people, and implies a mixing of cards that may have negative repercussions on achieving Egyptian-American common interests."
Egypt's reason for concern is clear: the north African nation is the second largest recipient of military aid from the United States after Israel, receiving about $1.3 billion annually and the officials noted that the U.S. has provided nearly $80 billion in military and economic assistance to Egypt over the past 30 years. They said the U.S. would continue to support Egypt's efforts to defeat extremists and terrorism as well as the country's economic development.
Egyptian military and law enforcement authorities have battled for months a deadly insurgency by a local ISIS affiliate, along with other jihadist groups, based in the restive Sinai Peninsula. The ISIS group there has carried out many attacks in Egypt, primarily targeting police and religious minorities, including Christians.
Cairo was the latest stop on Kushner's Mideast trip aimed at exploring the possibilities of reviving the long-dormant Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Kushner's trip comes in the wake of a July crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians at the site of a major Jerusalem holy shrine after Israel installed metal detectors at its entrance after an attack there killed two Israeli officers. The move incensed the Muslim world, triggering some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian clashes in years. Israel later removed the detectors.
Before Egypt, Kushner and the U.S. officials traveled on Tuesday to Jordan, where they met with King Abdullah II, according to the state-run Petra News Agency. The king acknowledged the importance of U.S. involvement and Trump's commitment to reach a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the agency said.
In an attempt to save face, Kushner’s office said that the meeting with Shoukry had never been set in stone because "the schedule was never fixed." Since seizing power from a Hillary Clinton and Muslim Brotherhood-backed government in a July 2013 military coup, al-Sisi’s government had maintained an uneasy peace with the Obama Administration, which was quick to stifle any criticism over al-Sisi’s dictatorial methods. It now appears that the pent up ill-will is about to bubble to the surface, perhaps pushing Egypt even deeper into the clutches of an anti-US Middle east axis; since there are several these days, Egypt will even have the option of choosing...