US freezes major weapons delivery, cash aid to Egypt

US freezes major weapons delivery, cash aid to Egypt

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US freezes major weapons delivery, cash aid to Egypt

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki speaks during a press statement. AA photo

The United States said Oct. 9 it had suspended the delivery of major military hardware and cash assistance to Egypt in the wave of a bloody crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Washington has frozen "the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically-elected civilian government through free and fair elections," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Marking a dramatic break with years of unqualified support to Cairo, the decision will halt the delivery of big-ticket items, including Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets and M1A1 Abrams tanks, officials told reporters, confirming earlier leaks.

The United States, however, will keep up assistance "to help secure Egypt's borders" and bolster "counterterrorism and proliferation, and ensure security in the Sinai," Psaki said. Washington will also continue "to provide parts for US-origin military equipment as well as military training and education," along with aid in areas such as health, education, and private sector development, she added.

Washington had already effectively frozen deliveries of expensive military hardware since a July 3 coup that ousted president Mohamed Morsi and a subsequent bloody clampdown on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

After Morsi's overthrow, the Pentagon called off a planned exercise with Egypt and postponed the delivery of four F-16 fighters.

'Recalibrating assistance'

Officials stressed that the U.S. government valued its longstanding ties with Egypt would not be cutting off all aid, which amounts to $1.5 billion a year, of which $1.3 billion is devoted to military hardware and training.

"As a result of the review directed by President [Barack] Obama, we have decided to maintain our relationship with the Egyptian government, while recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests," the statement said.

Psaki said that "we believe the U.S.-Egypt partnership will be strongest when Egypt is represented by an inclusive, democratically-elected civilian government based on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and an open and competitive economy." Obama and his deputies have repeatedly appealed to Egypt's military-backed government to hold fresh elections to restore democratic rule, but have so far failed to persuade Cairo to change its approach.

"The United States continues to support a democratic transition and oppose violence as a means of resolving differences within Egypt," the State Department said. "We will continue to review the decisions regarding our assistance periodically and will continue to work with the interim government to help it move toward our shared goals in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation." In the latest bloodshed on Egyptian streets, backers of the ousted Egyptian president clashed with police on Oct. 6, leaving 57 people dead.

The United States has provided billions in aid to Cairo since the 1979 peace deal, ensuring peace between Egypt and Israel, as well as priority access to the Suez Canal and anti-terrorism cooperation.

"Picking up and leaving town and walking away from this relationship wouldn't be good for the Egyptian people," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said earlier.

The United States had already deposited $584 million in remaining military aid funds for fiscal year 2013 in a federal reserve account pending the outcome of the policy review, according to State Department officials.