As Fahmy visits US, HRW urges Kerry to confront Egypt’s rights abuses

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy made his first post-June 30 visit to the United States on Thursday, just days after the Pentagon said it would lift its hold on the delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt.

Fahmy landed in San Francisco and was welcomed by Egyptian consular representatives there, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA). He was due to meet members of the city’s Egyptian community, as well as businessmen.

Egypt is hoping to mend relations with the US, which grew strained in the violent aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. The US initially condemned the military’s intercession and subsequent crackdown on Islamists.

The foreign minister is due to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet officials from the White House, MENA reported. 

On the eve of the meeting, Human Rights Watch urged Secretary of State John Kerry to “raise concerns about Egypt’s disastrous rights record since the military deposed Morsi in July, 2013,” in a statement released Thursday.

In a telephone call last Wednesday, Kerry told Fahmy he had informed Congress that Egypt now meets the criteria to resume US military aid, but added that it wasn’t clear if Egypt was truly taking steps toward democratic transition. Kerry urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to establishing democracy.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it would deliver 10 Apache attack helicopters to Egypt, a delivery that was frozen following the dissolution of Morsi’s administration.  

Statements made by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Kerry this past week mark a change in the US administration’s stance on Egypt.

“The administration continues to send very mixed message about its priorities in Egypt. In his upcoming meeting with Fahmy, Secretary Kerry needs to be clear about the consequences of the military-backed government’s brutal policies,” said Sarah Margon, acting Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “If mass killings, mass arrests and mass death sentences are not enough to make clear that freedoms are far from being ‘restored’ in Egypt, what is?”

During his time in California, Fahmy declared that “Egypt is witnessing a complete social change,” and that the country is headed toward political, economic and social stability, according to MENA.

Fahmy also stressed the importance of attracting and facilitating foreign investment in Egypt, and pointed to the interim Cabinet’s focus on major infrastructure projects, such as the Suez Canal development plan. 

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