WASHINGTON –U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were joined by a group of 15 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraging him to raise key issues and concerns with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at their scheduled bilateral meeting later this week.
“There is strong, bipartisan support in Congress for a security partnership with Egypt that addresses our shared challenges and twenty-first century threats,” wrote the members, before urging Secretary Pompeo to use the meeting as an opportunity to convey their concerns over democratic governance, political freedom and economic reforms, and fundamental human rights. “A strong and sustainable U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership is vital for both countries but it requires Egypt to make a tangible effort to make those reforms. We welcome President Sisi’s visit during this critical time and encourage a frank and open dialogue with our strategic partner.”
Specifically, the senators missive requested Secretary Pompeo to express strong concern over the ongoing detention of American citizens by the Egyptian government, Egypt’s deepening relationship with the Kremlin including the reported purchase of Russian fighter jets, and the concerning erosion of political and worsening human rights in recent years. The senators also commended President Sisi for Egypt’s adherence to the Peace Treaty with Israel.
Joining Menendez and Risch in sending the letter were Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).
A copy of the Senators’ letter can be found HERE and below:
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
The United States and Egypt have shared a strategic partnership for more than four decades. As you prepare for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s trip this month, it is critical to stress that our partnerships are stronger and more sustainable when rooted in shared values including democratic governance, political and economic freedom, and fundamental human rights for all citizens. We are writing to encourage you to address three pressing issues concerning developments with President Sisi.
First, Egypt has unjustly detained more than a dozen Americans. It is simply unacceptable for a foreign government to unjustly detain American citizens and deny them fundamental legal and political rights. We request that you ask that these Americans be released.
Second, we are concerned about Egypt’s reported purchase of 20 Russian Sukhoi SU-35s. As the United States provides significant military assistance to Egypt, we are concerned their deepening relationship with Russia, which also includes the loan that Moscow has provided to construct the nuclear power plant at Dabaa. We request that you ask President Sisi to reevaluate these decisions, which risk making his country a Russian dependency once again.
Third, we have serious concerns about the erosion of political and human rights. Notably, if adopted, proposed amendments to Egypt’s constitution that the parliament is currently considering would erode the independence of Egypt’s judiciary, giving President Sisi the power to hand select the head of judicial bodies, and may ultimately allow President Sisi to extend his rule until 2034. The proposed amendments would also expand the military’s influence over government, politics, and society conferring responsibility of “protecting” the constitution, democracy and the “civilian” nature of the state. We urge you to ask President Sisi to reconsider his support for these amendments, the fast-tracked process through which they are being considered, and uphold democratic governance, including the independence of the judiciary. We also hope you will stress the importance of promoting a free and transparent political process and stress the important role of human rights and civil society in building a more resilient and prosperous country.
Furthermore, the Egyptian government should be commended for its adherence to the Peace Treaty with Israel, its role in brokering ceasefires between Israel and Hamas, and its provision of military privileges to the United States, as well as its commitment to economic and regional energy reforms that are vital to Egypt’s long-term economic health.
A strong and sustainable U.S.-Egypt strategic partnership is vital for both countries but it requires Egypt to make a tangible effort to make those reforms. We welcome President Sisi’s visit during this critical time and encourage a frank and open dialogue with our strategic partner.