US President Joe Biden's administration on Tuesday called Egypt a "constructive" defense partner as it considers new military aid despite concerns on human rights, AFP reported.
Biden took office while vowing no more "blank checks" to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi due to his sweeping crackdown on dissent, but is considering whether to release $300 million in military aid that was linked by Congress to human rights standards.
Questioned at a Senate hearing on Tuesday, State Department and Pentagon officials said that Biden has made human rights a priority in talks with Egypt.
"But we also believe and support that Egypt has legitimate security concerns and believe that security assistance to Egypt is a critical tool in supporting those needs," said Dana Stroul, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East.
"The current view of the administration is that Egypt is playing a constructive role when it comes to border security, Libya, GERD, obviously the conflict in Gaza, et cetera," she said, pointing as well to US military overflights and Suez Canal transit.
Stroul also praised Egypt for agreeing to devote its own funds -- not just part of its $1.3 billion in annual US security aid -- to upgrade its Apache helicopters.
In February, the Biden administration approved the sale of 168 tactical missiles to Egypt.
The $197 million sale of the Raytheon-made Rolling Airframe Missiles was requested by the Egyptian navy to improve defense in coastal areas and around the Red Sea.
US-Egypt ties were strained under the Obama administration, which suspended American military aid to Egypt following the 2013 ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, before releasing it two years later.
Following the election of Donald Trump, however, ties improved. Sisi praised Trump after his election and said he expected greater engagement in the Middle East from his administration.
Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, helped broker a ceasefire in May that ended a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Biden spoke to Sisi following the ceasefire in Gaza and thanked him for the successful diplomacy and coordination with the United States which brought an end to the hostilities.