Egyptian military delegation holds talks in Washington over arms deal, NGOs

An Egyptian military delegation and US officials in Washington are discussing Egypt's purchases of American weapons as part of the annual US military aid to Egypt, which is around US$1.3 billion, said Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Wednesday.

The delegation has been in the US since Sunday, despite tensions between Cairo and the US administration over Egypt's crackdown on foreign-funded NGOs and placing of a travel ban on their American employees. Kirby said the one-week visit was scheduled before the NGOs issue arose, and that it is being discussed in the meetings.

Major General Fouad Abdel Halim, the deputy defense minister for arms issues who is presiding over the talks, declined to give a statement.

The Egyptian delegation also visited the US military's Central Command in Tampa, Florida, which supervises US troops in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, Kirby said.

Despite the NGO dispute, Kirby said the Pentagon still wants to "continue to pursue a strong relationship with the Egyptian military," the AFP reported.

A US State Department source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the military delegation will meet Friday with Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro, and have a separate meeting with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman.

The delegation will also meet with members of Congress, including prominent senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry.

US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Egyptian military delegations typically visit Washington several times each year. This visit is a chance to discuss Washington's concerns over Egypt's treatment of NGOs, she said.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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