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Arabic press review: Egypt tries to boost human rights credentials for Biden

Meanwhile, Jordan has reportedly received $1bn from the European Union to fight the pandemic, and Iraq’s PM vows to crack down on militias
Watchtowers at the notorious Tora prison on the southern outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo on 11 February 2020 (AFP)

Egypt concerned by US stance on human rights

Diplomatic sources in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that "there is a state of anxiety and uneasiness sweeping Cairo” over US policy under President Joe Biden, particularly since a call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry last week, according to Al Araby Al Jadeed.

Blinken reportedly told Shoukry that human rights would be "central" to ties between Cairo and Washington.

"These concerns are growing, but there is confidence that the observations of US agencies on Egypt’s human rights record cannot be compared to the Khashoggi crisis, and there is also a difference between what can be targeted in Saudi Arabia and what Washington can pressure (Egyptian President Abdel Fattah) el-Sisi on," the sources told the publication.

The sources stated that Cairo is determined "not to rush in making concessions to the Biden administration at the current stage”. 

Sisi’s government - which has been accused of committing numerous human rights violations - has received advice from some MPs and politicians affiliated with US lobby groups on measures to take to display a desire to improve human rights conditions in the country, including the possibility of releasing a "very limited number of well-known" political detainees and convicted US citizens, according to the newspaper. 

The same sources told Al Araby Al Jadeed that it is however unlikely at this time that prisoners will be released en masse. However, the release of the former spokesman for ex-army chief Sami Anan, Hazem Hosny, on 23 February “can be duplicated”.  

Jordan receives $1bn in EU aid

The European Union (EU) and its affiliated institutions have provided exceptional aid to Jordan since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic amounting to approximately 841 million euros ($1bn) distributed to the sectors most affected by the epidemic, according to Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad.

The EU has intensified its operations to back the Jordanian economy by granting a financial assistance packages to Amman in the form of soft loans to complete the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) economic support programme for Jordan, in addition to providing support to the private sector to protect jobs, according to the newspaper.

The EU supported the government's "Education during emergencies" plan, whereby 98,000 students in 390 schools received basic hygiene supplies from European countries.

Jordan has recorded over 400,000 cases of Covid-19 and 4,756 deaths in nearly a year.

Iraq's Kadhimi to pursue parties behind missile attacks 

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that “the Iraqi state is trying today to restore its balance and independence”, while denouncing the presence of militias that fire missiles at US facilities in the country. 

Kadhimi said that Iraqi security services were pursuing the parties suspected of being responsible for the attacks. 

The premier’s statements to the Saudi newspaper came days before Pope Francis’s visit to Baghdad, after an escalation of missile attacks. 

'Our security services are pursuing the outlaw gangs that are trying to sow confusion through launching missile strikes here or there, and we have detainees and those involved who will be brought to court' 

- Mustafa al-Kadhimi

In response to a question about the status of the Iraqi government, seemingly caught between Iran and the US, and the extent to which Iraq could be independent from tutelage, Kadhimi replied: “It cannot be said that Iraq is a country that lives today under guardianship, whether international or regional.” 

“But there have been political circumstances and grave mistakes committed against the Iraqi people over the past decades that have contributed to the transformation of Iraq into a playground for ambitions, adventures and the excess of intellectual or armed violence regionally and internationally,” he added. 

“Our security services are pursuing the outlaw gangs that are trying to sow confusion through launching missile strikes here or there, and we have detainees and those involved who will be brought to court.” 

Regarding Baghdad’s relations with Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi PM stressed the close cooperation between the two states, highlighting “the tangible escalation of cooperation in terms of trade and investment exchange and other vital sectors”. 

*Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye