U.S. officials said Wednesday that the Biden administration decided to withhold $130 million in foreign military aid to Egypt because of its human rights conditionality, but allowed some funds to flow because of its determination that Cairo has made progress on political detentions.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken determined that Cairo had made some progress in political detention and due process by freeing hundreds of prisoners, officials said.

Human rights groups are pushing for an end to all $300 million in aid to Egypt, which was provided on the terms of the US Congress.

Human rights groups have cited widespread human rights abuses under the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including torture and enforced disappearances.

The aid that Blinken decided to withhold is 10% of the $1.3 billion allocated to Egypt each year.

The official said State Department lawyers had determined that 10% was the maximum that could be withheld this year.

Washington is allowing $75 million in transfers to Egypt, citing progress related to political detention and due process, including the release of about 500 political prisoners this year.

Cairo will receive another $95 million under the law’s waivers related to counterterrorism, border security and nonproliferation funding, State Department officials said.

“The approach taken here reflects the administration’s concern for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Egypt, and seeks to preserve the engagement and dialogue we’ve had over the past 20 months,” one senior State Department official told reporters in a briefing.

“We … have agreed very clearly with the Egyptian government at all levels on the actions and steps necessary to strengthen our relationship.”

Seth Binder, director of Middle East Democracy Advocacy, a US-based advocacy group, said the US claim of progress in Egypt was belied by the continued detention of political prisoners.

“While the delay in the funds sends a message to al-Sisi that his failure to address US human rights issues will have a tangible impact on the relationship, illegitimately attesting to progress where there is none, the message is confusing,” Binder said.

Sisi denies the presence of political prisoners in Egypt.

He says stability and security are paramount, and authorities are promoting rights as they try to secure basic needs such as jobs and housing.

Analysts say Western powers are reluctant to take serious action against a strategic ally that has served as a mediator in long-standing issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict and controls the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most valuable sea lanes.

US officials say relations with Egypt are complicated. The most populous Arab country is a vital ally, and Washington remains committed to supporting it in its “legitimate defense needs.”

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