CAIRO — Egypt’s foreign minister said today 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 in the wake of the July 3 military coup that ousted 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. The interview was published today.
However, 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 $1.5 billion 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 U.S. 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 wealthy Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These oil-rich states have poured billions of dollars into Egypt’s anemic coffers and to continue the common fight against Islamists.
The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.