CAIRO – President Joe Biden’s national security adviser held talks Wednesday with Egypt’s president that focused on regional tensions and the ties between Washington and its Mideast ally, the Egyptian leader’s office said.
The meeting in Cairo with Jake Sullivan came as the Biden administration presses Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's government to stop his crackdown on dissent. The U.S. announced earlier this month it would withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns.
The two sides discussed Egypt’s human rights strategy, and officials from the U.S. delegation highlighted the importance the White House sees of the el-Sissi government improving its record on the matter, according to a senior Biden administration official who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry attended the talks, which came after Sullivan paid visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for talks focused on finding an end to the war in Yemen.
El-Sissi’s office said in a statement the talks also addressed efforts to revive peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians amid rising tensions between the Jewish state and the Hamas militant group.
The region has seen an increase in fighting in recent weeks, with tensions fueled by Israeli settlement construction and heightened militant activity in the northern West Bank.
Egypt has long played a role as mediator between Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. El-Sissi’s government brokered a cease-fire after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas erupted in May.
The statement said the talks also touched on the situation in Libya as the chaos-wrecked North African nation heads toward elections late this year.
The U.S., Egypt and other Western nations are pushing for holding presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya as scheduled on Dec. 24, hoping the vote will end a decade-long chaos in the oil-rich nation.
El-Sissi and Sullivan also discussed a decade-long dispute over a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile River.
Ethiopia says the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is crucial for its economic development. Egypt and Sudan, downstream countries, say the project is a threat to their water security and have called for a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam’s reservoir.
El-Sissi urged the international community to play “an effective role” to resolve the dispute. “Egypt will not accept damage to its water interests," he said.
The Biden administration sees the dam dispute as potential flashpoint in the turbulent Horn of Africa but has sought to take a back seat to the African Union in finding a resolution.
Sullivan told the Egyptian president that the U.S. wants to see a diplomatic solution to the Ethiopian dam issue, but also recognized Egypt’s concerns about access to Nile River waters, according to the Biden administration official.
The two sides also discussed promoting Iraq’s stability and regional integration, addressing Lebanon’s financial crisis, promoting a return to constitutional order in Tunisia, and supporting a civilian-led transition of government in Sudan, the official said.
Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report.