Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Monday, July 31, 2006

US and Egypt Recommence Strategic Dialogue

The Egyptian delegation took part in a series of strategic dialogue meetings with US officials last week, at the request of Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. According to the official statement, both Washington and Cairo thought it was time to rekindle dialogue in order to identify their positions over recent political and economic developments in the region. They agreed to meet annually, alternating between Washington and Cairo, and established three committees to deal with joint political, economic, and security issues.

The Egyptian delegation included Rachid Mohamed Rachid, minister of trade and industry, Fayza Abul-Naga, minister of state for international cooperation, and Omar Suleiman, the chief of General Intelligence, along with participation from Nabil Fahmi, Egypt’s ambassador in Washington, and Francis Ricciardone, the US ambassador in Cairo.

The meeting was said to be productive, but with several areas of disagreement in the areas of foreign policy, political reform and economic reform and trade. Foreign policy issues were the most prominent, due to Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon during the delegation’s visit.

Washington and Cairo’s differences regarding Lebanon continue. However, Mohamed Bassiouni, Egypt’s former ambassador to Israel, and now chair of the Shura Council’s Foreign and Arab Relations Committee, believes they are not “dramatic.”

The most sensitive topic on the meetings’ agenda was probably political reform in Egypt. Harvey Sicherman, president of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, feels that American policymakers agree that Egypt is not moving towards democratization fast enough, which has caused the US administration a lot of embarrassment in Congress. "As a result," he says, "there is resistance in Congress to concluding a free trade agreement with Egypt, while several members have tried to cut annual aid to Egypt and set aside large amounts to fund pro-reform civil society organizations."

"Many believe Egypt's steps towards democratization in 2005 were little more than a sham, a tactic aimed at deflecting American pressure," he said.

Also significant in last week’s agenda were economic issues, with Washington approving of Egypt’s economic liberalization policies, and issues such as investment technology transfer, qualified industrial zones, and intellectual property rights.

For the full article, click here.


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