x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Egypt’s relations with US ‘in turmoil’

Egypt’s foreign minister says relations between his country and the United States are in ‘turmoil’ following Washington’s decision to suspend delivery of tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to Egypt.

CAIRO // Egypt’s foreign minister said yesterday that relations between his country and the United States are in “turmoil” following Washington’s decision to suspend delivery of tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to Egypt.

The suspension, announced last week, came in response to the unrest after the July 3 removal from power of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and that led to the deaths of hundreds in police crackdowns.

In an interview with state-owned Al Ahram newspaper, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said that there is “unrest in relations” between the two countries, warning that the strain could affect the whole Middle East region.

However, Mr Fahmy said he was “not worried about this turmoil in relations,” because it’s also a chance for the two to “better evaluate their relationship in the future.”

The Obama administration’s decision to cut off military aid was meant as a warning that it no longer can be “business as usual” with Cairo, as President Barack Obama put it last week.

In announcing the decision, the State Department did not say how much of the US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) in annual military and economic aid to Egypt was affected. It held up the delivery of Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank kits, which are put together in Egyptian factories, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

But the US decision is more of a symbolic slap than a punishing wound to Egypt’s new military-backed government for its slog toward a return to democratic rule.

The military-backed government enjoys the support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have poured billions of dollars into Egypt’s anaemic coffers and to continue the common fight against Islamists.

The US also is withholding $260 million in cash assistance to the government in Cairo until “credible progress” is made toward an inclusive government set up through free and fair elections.

The US said it will keep providing support for health and education and counterterrorism, spare military parts, military training and border security and security assistance in the volatile Sinai Peninsula.

Near-daily attacks against Egyptian security forces and soldiers in Sinai have increasingly resembled a full-fledged insurgency.

*Associated Press