Egypt leader, Biden adviser keep up talks on regional tensions

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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.

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 vicinity 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-high nation.

El-Sissi and Sullivan also discussed a decade-long argument over a enormous 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 argument. “Egypt will not accept damage to its water interests,” he said.

The Biden administration sees the dam argument as possible flashpoint in the turbulent Horn of Africa but has sought to take a back seat to the African Union in finding a resolution.

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