Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar met with the US and UK ambassadors on Tuesday afternoon to discuss security in Egypt and across the region.
In the two meetings, the ambassadors expressed their support for the Interior Ministry, according to a ministry press release.
Abdel Ghaffar met with Britain’s Ambassador to Egypt John Casson and discussed “a number of security issues of common concern”. Casson “[stressed] his country’s readiness to cooperate with the Egyptian Interior Ministry to support efforts to combat the spread of extremism and tackle terrorist crimes which threaten the stability of countries across the world”. He also expressed the British Government’s “intention to expand the horizons of cooperation”.
Speaking on the meeting, Ambassador John Casson told Daily News Egypt on Wednesday: “I share the Minister’s commitment to strengthening the UK-Egypt partnership. Security is a vital foundation for the more secure, prosperous, and democratic Egypt we all want to see. That means tough security measures, countering extremist ideology, and progress on the economy, democracy and human rights, which are essential for long-term security.”
According to the ministry handout, Abdel Ghaffar welcomed the improving cooperation between British security agencies and the Egyptian Interior Ministry, including the exchange of intelligence on terrorist entities.
On Monday, news surfaced of the UK’s top intelligence agency being found to have illegally spied on human rights groups worldwide, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), a British court disclosed. The Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) was found to have intentionally monitored EIPR’s communications in a manner that suggested they were doing so with other NGOs.
Last week, the UK invited President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on a visit to the country, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s top security advisor visiting Al-Sisi in Cairo. The British government defended its plan to invite Al-Sisi just a day after a Cairo court sentenced former president Mohamed Morsi to death on questionable grounds. Britain said it was important to engage with countries, and to raise “matters of concern”.
Both the US and UK governments have shown increasing support for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s governments. Critics have said this amounts to putting economic and regional interests before domestic human rights concerns, as mass-scale human rights violations have thrived under Al-Sisi’s administration.
Earlier in June, a White House document emerged signed off by US Secretary of State John Kerry, which serves as a waiver allowing for the Secretary of State to resume the annual $1.3bn military and economic aid to Egypt. This would be regardless of democratic progress in the country, as it is “important to the national security interest of the United States”.
“While Egypt has implemented parts of its ‘democracy roadmap’, the overall trajectory of rights and democracy has been negative. A series of executive initiatives, new laws, and judicial actions severely restrict freedom of expression and the press, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly, and due process, and they undermine prospects for democratic governance,” the document reads.
According to the Interior Ministry handout, the US ambassador to Egypt, Robert Stephen Beecroft, praised in Tuesday’s meeting the ministry’s efforts to combat terrorism and maintain stability whilst stressing Egypt’s pivotal role in the Middle East. Abdel Ghaffar, in return, praised cooperation with the US on security, specifically in providing training programmes to security personnel.
Egypt has faced a large spike in militant violence since former president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July 2013, primarily focussed in North Sinai by an group that has latterly aligned itself with Islamic State. The frequency of attacks has increased throughout the Al-Sisi government’s tenure.
Whilst the number of attacks in Egypt stood at 353 in 2014, in the first three months of 2015 alone, the number has almost equalled the figure at 331, according to analysis by the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP).
Despite the criticisms levelled at the Egyptian government, both the US and the UK have suggested working with Egypt is better than isolating it or publicly criticising its violations. “We should not leave Egypt to face its challenges alone, but take tangible steps to partner with Egyptians who are building a more stable, more prosperous and more democratic country,” Casson wrote on Tuesday.
Regarding terrorism, Ambassador Casson also wrote: “[The] UK-Egyptian partnership is stronger every month – through equipment supplies, joint training on aviation security and countering IEDs, joint membership of the coalition against ISIL and cooperation to take the fight to the ISIL terrorists in Libya.”
“[The UK is] number 1 for investment and jobs. Britain brings half of all foreign investment to Egypt, $24.1bn in the last 5 years. We brought our largest trade mission here for fifteen years in January. The British company WPP is organising the Suez Canal opening,” Casson said. “At Sharm El-Sheikh in March, BP signed the biggest investment deal in Egypt’s history, worth $12bn, to develop the West Nile Delta project to increase Egypt’s gas production by 25% by 2020.”