CAIRO, Egypt – US President Donald Trump has told his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi that he wants to strengthen ties with Cairo, Sissi’s office said Friday, days after it emerged Washington had cut some aid to Egypt.
Egypt had protested on Wednesday a US decision to withhold some military and financial aid over human rights concerns. The Foreign Ministry then announced that a meeting between Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was canceled. The meeting took place in the end, possibly because of the Trump phone call.
In a phone call with Sissi, Trump “affirmed the strength of friendship between Egypt and the United States,” the presidency said in a statement.
The US president said he was keen to continue “developing relations between the two countries and surpassing any obstacles that might affect them,” according to the statement.
The US State Department confirmed earlier this week that it had denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding because of concerns over its human rights record. “It’s about human rights,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington.
Trump’s arrival in office in January has seen an improvement in US relations with Egypt, in contrast to his predecessor Barack Obama who took a harder line on human rights issues in the North African country.
Obama temporarily suspended military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and the subsequent bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.
Sissi in May approved a law which critics say will severely restrict the work of non-governmental organizations.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.