Feb 17, 2021 - World

Biden admin approves Egypt arms sale plan amid human rights concerns

 The US Department of State building is seen in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2019
Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it has approved plans for a $197 million missile sale to Egypt.

Why it matters: The decision comes despite concerns about Egypt's human rights record. It coincides with news of the arrest in Egypt of family members of Mohamed Soltan, a vocal U.S.-based Egyptian American human rights activist.

Details: The State Department said in a statement it notified Congress about the plans, which it said would "support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East."

  • "The proposed sale will support the Egyptian Navy’s Fast Missile Craft ships and provide significantly enhanced area defense capabilities over Egypt’s coastal areas and approaches to the Suez Canal," the statement added.
  • "Egypt will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces since Egypt already operates previously procured RAM Block 1A missiles."

What they're saying: State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a briefing Tuesday the Biden administration had and was continuing to "engage the Egyptian government on human rights concerns and we take seriously all allegations of arbitrary arrest or detention.

  • "We will bring our values with us into every relationship that we have across the globe," he added.
  • "That includes with our close security partners. That includes with Egypt."

For the record: Soltan spent some two years as a political prisoner in Egypt after being arrested protesting the 2013 coup by then-military leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is now president.

  • He has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was tortured while in custody in the country.
  • Soltan's nonprofit, the Freedom Initiative, said in a statement the targeting of his family members marks the latest attempt by the government of Sisi "to silence its critics living abroad."
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