US and Egypt launch climate and economic working groups

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Antony Blinken also discuss Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya, Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

US and Egypt begin strategic dialogue in Washington

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) listens as Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a US-Egypt strategic dialogue at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 8, 2021.  (Photo by Alex Brandon  /  POOL  /  AFP)
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hosted Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Washington on Monday in the first strategic dialogue between the US and Egypt since 2015.

Mr Blinken vowed to bring the US-Egypt strategic dialogue back to “a more regular cadence” and announced that the two countries would launch a new climate working group as Egypt bids to host the Cop27 climate conference next year, while another working group will aim to bolster economic co-operation.

He noted that both he and Mr Shoukry had recently returned from Cop26 in Scotland, where Egypt pledged to double its use of renewable energy from 20 to 42 per cent by 2035.

The US secretary of state also said the new joint economic initiative “is more important than ever, given the devastating impact of Covid-19, particularly on underserved populations".

He added that he and Mr Shoukry had also addressed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Libya, Sudan and Ethiopia during their meeting.

The crisis in Ethiopia also puts the stability of the Horn of Africa at risk,” he said.

“The United States also continues to support negotiated agreement on the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that will address the interests of all parties, including Egypt's water needs, something that President [Joe] Biden and President [Abdel Fattah] El Sisi have discussed.”

Egypt says the dam would inhibit its access to Nile River water.

A senior US official told The National in September that the Biden administration is largely deferring to the African Union on the dam talks after US-brokered efforts under former president Donald Trump failed to resolve the dispute.

Mr Blinken said that both the US and Egypt “have a shared interest in getting” Sudan’s “democratic transition back on track” following the military coup last month against the civilian wing of the transitional government, which prompted Washington to pause its emergency aid payments to Khartoum.

He also praised the part Egypt is playing in Libya, saying it “has played a key role in pushing for an inclusive political process and for elections to be held on time".

Following the meeting, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Mr Blinken “also expressed appreciation for Egypt’s role in supporting regional stability, including its continued work to de-escalate tension in Gaza".

Mr Price noted that Mr Blinken “reaffirmed President Biden's commitment that human rights will be central to US foreign policy and welcomed the chance to discuss Egypt’s human rights goals".

The Biden administration announced it would withhold $130 million in Egyptian military aid until Cairo meets a series of human rights criteria, including the release of 16 political prisoners.

Mr Shoukry said after the meeting that “human rights are an interdependent whole, which necessitates that we dedicate equal attention to political rights and civil liberties and economic and social rights".

But he said human rights should take into consideration “social specificities, developmental realities, religious background and cultural characteristics".

Updated: November 10, 2021, 5:14 AM