US Slaps Egypt on Human Rights Record and Ties to North Korea – New York Times

Posted: August 22, 2017 at 11:25 pm

While Mr. Sisi approved the new law almost two months after his meeting with Mr. Trump, concerns over Egypts human rights record and its relationship with North Korea have been percolating for years.

Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the conflicting messages from the Trump administration were surprising.

It is unusual that the Trump administration would take a punitive measure against Egypt, given the presidents outreach to President Sisi and his general embrace of this Egyptian government, Mr. Satloff said. I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypts human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillersons top priority has been to increase North Koreas economic and diplomatic isolation, and he has asked foreign leaders in almost every meeting that they cut ties with Pyongyang.

Egypt has been close with North Korea since at least the 1970s. North Korean pilots trained Egyptian fighter pilots before the 1973 war with Israel, and Egypt was later accused of supplying Scud missiles to North Korea, said Daniel Leone of the Project on Middle East Democracy.

This year, United Nations investigators said they acquired evidence of North Korean trade in hitherto unreported items such as encrypted military communications, man-portable air defense systems, air defense systems and satellite-guided missiles in the Middle East and Africa, among other locations.

In 2015, a United Nations panel said that Egypts Port Said was being used by North Korean front companies and shipping agents engaged in weapons smuggling.

Successive American administrations have privately raised the issue of North Korea in talks with Cairo, but with little success. The United States may be pressuring Egypt over its civilian and military links to North Korea. One of Egypts richest men, Naguib Sawiris, owns Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, the telecommunications company that helped set up North Koreas main cellular telephone network in 2008.

Another factor in the decision to limit funding to Egypt is the draconian law regulating aid agencies particularly those funded by Western governments and organizations which was signed into law by Mr. Sisi in late May. Several Egyptian groups, including those working with victims of police torture, said the law will make it impossible for them to continue their work and may force them to shut down.

The Trump administration has proposed significant cutbacks in foreign aid and has promised to demand greater accountability from aid recipients.

But Tuesdays actions were not as tough as they might have been. By pausing the provision of $195 million in military funding, the Trump administration saved the money from expiring entirely on Sept. 30. This way, Egypt could eventually get the money if its record on human rights improves.

Gardiner Harris reported from Washington, and Declan Walsh from London.

A version of this article appears in print on August 23, 2017, on Page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Curbs Aid to Egypt, Citing Human Rights Record and North Korean Ties.

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US Slaps Egypt on Human Rights Record and Ties to North Korea - New York Times

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