Egypt insists it will not bow to US pressure following decision to cut aid
Washington, however, stresses it is not severing ties with its ally
A man who supports Egypt’s army takes a photo with his mobile phone yesterday as he poses with a poster of Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the garden of Tahrir Square, which has been the epicentre of the country’s 2011 uprising, in Cairo. The poster reads: “Complete your favour, our lion”. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters.
Egypt yesterday criticised a US decision to curtail military and economic aid to Cairo after a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, although Washington stressed it was not severing ties with its long-standing ally.
The army-backed government insisted Egypt would not bow to US pressure, saying it found the decision strange at a time when the country was “facing a war against terrorism”.
However, US secretary of state John Kerry said Washington would consider resuming some of the aid “on a basis of performance” in following the interim government’s “roadmap” that promises to lead to fair elections.
Washington faces a dilemma in dealing with its major regional ally; Egypt controls the strategic Suez Canal and has a peace treaty with neighbouring Israel, but its army overthrew in July the first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, after mass protests against his rule.
In some of the worst civilian violence in modern Egyptian history, security forces crushed protests by Morsi’s supporters.
Militant Islamists, who have been attacking Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula for some time, have begun staging assaults in or near major cities including Cairo.
The US said on Wednesday it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles to Cairo as well as $260 million in cash aid, but left some other aid programmes intact.
The Egyptian cabinet criticised the announcement. “The government expressed the strangeness of the decision which was issued at such a vital time during which Egypt is facing a war against terrorism,” it said in a statement.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Atty also reacted with defiance. “The decision was wrong. Egypt will not surrender to American pressure and is continuing its path towards democracy as set by the roadmap,” he told the Radio FM station.
However, he also said Egypt was “keen on continuing good relations with the United States”.
The US position exposes differences with its Gulf ally Saudi Arabia, which had welcomed Morsi’s removal and has lavished financial support on the new government. It also raises the question of where Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, could now turn for more military aid.
Israel has also struggled to hide its frustration, fearing the move could damage Washington’s standing in the region and undermine its own peace treaty with Egypt.