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Cardin to Introduce Bipartisan Egypt Resolution

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, announced Friday that when the Senate convenes Monday he will introduce a bipartisan resolution reaffirming America’s commitment to the U.S.-Egypt partnership. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is scheduled to meet with President Trump and Members of Congress in Washington early next week.

Joining Senator Cardin in introducing the resolution are U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); Tim Kaine (D-Va); Todd Young (R-Ind.); and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

The resolution notes the long history and enduring ties between the United States and Egypt, offers support for Egyptian efforts to confront legitimate threats and stabilize the economy, and calls for Egypt’s leaders to take steps toward meaningful political and human rights reforms. The Senators also reiterate their call for the release of Egyptian-American prisoner Aya Hijazi, who has been detained for nearly three years on unsubstantiated charges.

“I’m hopeful that President el-Sisi’s visit to Washington will open a new chapter of partnership with Egypt.  The United States should support Egypt as it addresses security threats and economic growth.  However, genuine reform and the opening of space for peaceful political dissent and civil society activity is integral to Egypt’s stability and security,” said Senator Cardin. “We can’t stay silent, in Egypt or elsewhere, when crackdowns on the media, civil society, and political opponents take place. I look forward to discussing this issue when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets with President el-Sisi.”

“Egypt plays a critical role in the Middle East, and is a vital counterterrorism partner,” said Senator Rubio. “I hope President el-Sisi’s visit to Washington next week is constructive. While our two countries seek a deeper relationship, it’s important for Egypt to make progress on human rights, democracy, and economic reforms. I urge President Trump to press for the release of political prisoners in Egypt, including jailed Americans, and encourage Egypt to allow greater space for civil society and freedom of expression for all, and permit non-governmental organizations to operate freely.”

“The U.S-Egypt partnership is built on decades of cooperation to advance our shared interests, and I am confident that we can continue to work together to achieve the security, prosperity, and freedoms that the people of Egypt and the region deserve.  The protection of human rights and rule of law is critical to Egypt’s stability and essential to the enduring strength of the U.S.-Egypt relationship.  It’s critical that Egypt move forward with the important political and economic reforms necessary to cement its long-term security and historic leadership role in the Middle East,” said Senator Kaine.

“A strong U.S.-Egypt relationship is vital for stability in the region, and the US should seek to deepen that relationship further while working with our Egyptian partners to better protect universal human rights,” said Senator Young.

“Egypt plays a critical role in the Middle East and is an important partner for the United States in promoting our shared national security interests. As we look towards the future of our relationship, it is vital that the United States also promote the values of human rights and democracy, which ultimately contribute to more stable, resilient societies that make for the best allies,” said Senator Menendez. “I call upon the Egyptian government to make meaningful reforms that guarantee freedom of expression, religion and equal rights and opportunities for all its citizens, stop crackdowns on the press and civil society, and release political prisoners, including American citizens.”

The text of the resolution follows:

A Resolution Reaffirming U.S. Commitment to the U.S.-Egypt Partnership

Whereas after almost four decades of close cooperation, the U.S.-Egypt partnership has been built on shared objectives and interests with enduring bipartisan support in Congress;

Whereas the Government and people of Egypt play a critical role in global and regional politics;

Whereas the U.S.-Egyptian partnership is vital for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Middle East;

Whereas Egypt has been an intellectual and cultural center of the Arab world, and continues to be an important country based on its geography, demography, and diplomatic posture;

Whereas Egypt remains one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign assistance worldwide, having received $77 billion in bilateral foreign aid, including $1.3 billion a year in military aid;

Whereas Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel remains one of the most significant diplomatic achievements for the promotion of Arab-Israeli peace;

Whereas for almost forty years, Egypt, Israel, and the United States have collaborated to counter terrorism, prevent illicit smuggling, and enhance regional stability;

Whereas the United States has welcomed Egypt’s participation in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS;

Whereas Egypt and the United States held a Strategic Dialogue on August 2, 2015, in Cairo, Egypt based on the shared commitment to deepen the bilateral relationship;

Whereas Egypt can play an important role in facilitating negotiated settlements to end the conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, as well as restarting the Middle East Peace Process and defeating ISIS;

Whereas the Egyptian people continue to be the victims of heinous terrorist attacks, including the December 11, 2016 ISIS bombing of the Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, which killed 28 people including women and children;

Whereas the Government of Egypt reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in November 2016 to take important steps toward economic stabilization, such as liberalizing its foreign exchange system and reducing costly fuel subsidies;

Whereas President el-Sisi, in a televised interview on September 16, 2016, said that he is very committed to preserving human rights in Egypt and that Egypt will not return to tyranny;

Whereas the Department of State's 2016 Country Report on Human Rights Report notes, with respect to Egypt, that—

(1)   “[t]he most significant human rights problems were excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and the suppression of civil liberties”;

(2)   “[t]here were numerous reports that the government [of Egypt] or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings while making arrests or holding persons in custody”;

(3)   “[c]onditions in the prisons and detention centers were harsh and potential life-threatening due to overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate medical care, poor infrastructure, and poor ventilation’; and

(4)   “[s]everal international and local human rights groups…reported a spike in forced disappearances [in Egypt], alleging authorities increasingly relied on this tactic to intimidate critics’;

Whereas credible local organizations estimate that thousands of people are detained solely for political reasons in Egypt, including for peacefully protesting or calling for a change in government;

Whereas in March 2017 President el-Sisi pardoned 203 prisoners many of whom had been jailed for taking part in protests;

Whereas American-Egyptian citizen Aya Hijazi, her husband Mohammed Hassanein, and other members of their organization Belady have been unjustly imprisoned in Egypt since May 2014;

Whereas the Egyptian parliament’s passage of legislation restricting the work of  non-governmental organizations undermines Egypt’s stated commitment to protecting constitutionally guaranteed rights and to furthering Egypt’s democratic transition;

Whereas the media is regularly harassed by authorities and Egypt is the third-highest jailer of journalists in the world in 2016, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists;

Whereas respect for democracy, inclusive governance, human rights, and civil liberties have been core pillars of U.S. foreign policy since at least the 1970s;

Whereas Egypt will ensure its security, economic prosperity, and transition to democracy by protecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of all Egyptians;

Whereas the last official visit to the United States by an Egyptian head of state was in August 2009;

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1)   Welcomes President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the United States,

(2)   Expresses hope that President el-Sisi’s visit will open a new chapter in U.S.-Egyptian relations as both sides pledge to work toward greater cooperation based on shared interests and values;

(3)   Acknowledges the central and historic importance of the United States-Egyptian partnership in advancing the common interests of both countries;

(4)   Hopes that President el-Sisi will highlight in public statements the value of U.S.-Egypt ties; 

(5)   Recognizes that Egypt faces legitimate security threats and expresses condolences for the loss of life suffered by the Egyptian people in attacks by violent extremist organizations;

(6)   Stands with the Egyptian people as they confront violent extremism and threats on land and sea borders;

(7)   Appreciates Egypt’s regional role as a peace partner and mediator;

(8)   Recognizes the necessity for Egypt’s leaders to take steps toward genuine political reform that prioritizes human rights, fundamental freedoms, and rule of law;

(9)   Demands the immediate release of unjustly imprisoned American citizens, including Aya Hijazi, who has been detained in Egypt since May 2014 on unsubstantiated charges;

(10)  Demands an immediate end to the harassment and interference in the operations of independent civil society and media organizations in Egypt, including the closure of Case 173 and the revision of Egypt’s nongovernmental organization law in accordance with international best practices;

(11)  Encourages the United States and Egypt to increase cooperation—

(A)  to combat terrorism in a manner consistent with international human rights law;

(B)  to promote principles of good governance; and

(C)  to ensure respect for the universal rights of the Egyptian people;

(12)     Reaffirms the United States’ commitment to support the Government of Egypt with assistance, training, and other resources as it combats terrorism,  addresses security in the Sinai Peninsula, and enhances Egypt’s border security and maritime security while recognizing the need to monitor security assistance to ensure accountability and due process of law;

(13)  Clarifies that any proposed restructuring of U.S. assistance to Egypt, which is subject to the approval of Congress, will take into account progress on meaningful political reform, human rights, and fundamental freedoms;

(14)  Urges the President of the United States and the Secretary of State to engage the Egyptian government on new ways to advance the bilateral relationship economically, militarily, diplomatically, and through cultural exchanges while ensuring respect for the universal rights of the Egyptian people;

(15)   Congratulates the Egyptian government on their engagement with the International Monetary Fund and their difficult but necessary steps to stabilize the economy; and

(16)   Supports Egypt’s economic reform efforts; and

(17)  Calls on the United States Government to develop a new strategy for joint efforts—

(A) to bolster U.S.-Egyptian trade and investment in the Egyptian private sector;

(B)  To combat corruption; and

(C)  To promote higher education.