CAIRO, Apr 3 (Aswat Masriya) – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is “the right man at the right time”, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday in a press conference in Cairo amid wide local and international anger over alleged human rights violations in Egypt.
Graham heads a U.S. Congress delegation that arrived in Cairo on Saturday for a two-day visit during which delegation members met with Sisi and Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi.
Graham is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. He is also a member of the Committee on Armed Services.
During his meeting with the congressional delegation, Sisi spoke about “the importance of achieving a balance” between “national security and stability considerations,” on the one hand, and human rights and freedom, on the other, Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a press statement on Sunday.
The human rights situation in Egypt was criticized by the U.S. in a statement last month.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed " deep concern by the deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt” following a decision by Egypt to reopen the investigation into a case in which a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are accused of receiving illegal funding.
During today’s press conference, Graham addressed the situation in Sinai, adding that Sisi has expressed his “desire” to destroy militant groups in the restive peninsula.
Egypt has generally seen a significant rise in militant activities since the ouster of then-President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, following mass protests against his rule. North Sinai is the epicenter of this insurgency, with an ISIS-affiliated group known as "Sinai Province" operating in the area.
Following Mursi's ouster, Egypt's relations with the U.S. were strained, particularly when the U.S. partially suspended its annual military aid, which is worth $1.3 billion. Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel.
The U.S. resumed its aid to Egypt in March 2015.
In July 2015, the U.S. delivered to Egypt eight F-16 Block II Fighting Falcons, followed by four more in October, with the aim of "confronting terrorism in the region," the U.S. embassy said in a statement in November 2015
Egypt also received five M1A1 Abrams Tank turrets in July. The delivery of the tanks was preceded by the delivery of two Fast Missile naval vessels in June to the port of Alexandria "in support of Egypt's security", the U.S. embassy added then.
In the past two years, the Egyptian government has come under the criticism in Egypt and internationally over alleged human rights violations such as "enforced disappearances", extrajudicial detention, extended periods of pre-trial detention and a purported crackdown on the freedom of belief and expression.
More recently, a number of media reports have accused Egyptian security forces of torturing Italian Ph.D. student Giulio Regeni to death and dumping his body in a roadside ditch on the outskirts of Cairo, which the Egyptian interior ministry has repeatedly denied.