U.S. set to resume military aid to Egypt

Egypt could see U.S. military aid returning partly due to Cairo upholding its peace treaty with Israel, Kerry told his Egyptian counterpart

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy that Washington’s military aid to his country could resume, partly due to Cairo’s upholding of its peace treaty with Israel, the newspaper Daily News Egypt reported on Wednesday.

“Kerry was certifying to the Congress that Cairo was sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” and “upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty,” the State Department quoted the readout of a phone conversation that took place between the top U.S. diplomat and his Egyptian counterpart.

However, Kerry noted that he was not able to certify “that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition.”

In July last year, a popularly-backed military coup ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.

After the toppling of Mursi, his supporters and leaders of the Brotherhood were quelled with hundreds of them jailed and given death sentences.

Washington had imposed a temporary freeze on the delivery of major weapons to Egypt, including Apache helicopters, following the brutal crackdown on Mursi supporters by the military-installed authorities.

Kerry expressed that a democratic transition would include “easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and the media.”

After Mursi’s ouster, Egypt passed a law demanding would-be protesters to take permission from the government in order to demonstrate, agitating the so-called revolutionary youth who ousted former President Hosni Mubarak after his three-decade reign in power.

In January, the Congress passed a bill allocating in military aid to Egypt under certain conditions.

Under the conditions, Egypt must hold a referendum on a new constitution, show it was taking steps to support a democratic transition, maintain its strategic relationship with the U.S., and fulfill its obligations under the peace treaty with Israel to get the aid flowing back.

On Wednesday, Egypt’s foreign ministry reported that Fahmy was travelling to the United States, a day after Washington decided to provide Cairo with 10 Apache military helicopters.

Fahmy is expected to meet officials in Washington and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon during his visit. He is also due to meet representatives of think tanks and will speak at a seminar in San Francisco, the ministry said, without specifying how long the trip will last, Agence France-Presse reported.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday Washington will provide Cairo with the 10 Apache aircraft to strengthen Egypt’s counter-terrorism operations in the restive Sinai Peninsula where it is fighting a growing militancy.

But a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday the delivery of other weapons, including F-16 fighter jets, would remain temporarily suspended.

The U.S. has struggled to balance its concerns over human rights abuses with a strategic interest in keeping up counter-terrorism ties with Cairo and maintaining the Egypt-Israel peace accord.

Egypt will hold a presidential election on May 26-27, which former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi - who deposed Mursi in July - is expected to win.

(With AFP)

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