WASHINGTON – Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday that he is certifying to Congress that Egypt deserves a resumption of some U.S. military aid, even though he couldn’t vouch that the military-backed government is moving toward a more democratic system.
Kerry told Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy in a phone call that he believes Egypt is entitled to the aid because it is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States” and carrying out its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Tuesday evening.
The certification means that the Egyptian military, which has long depended on U.S. aid, will receive 10 Apache Helicopters and some of the $1.3 billion in the annual U.S. military assistance package. The administration held up a portion of the aid in July, when the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist government.
The ouster created a dilemma for the administration, which wants Egypt to continue its security cooperation with Israel. But the administration remains uncomfortable with the Egyptian government’s harsh tactics. A State Department spokeswoman said last month that U.S. officials were “shocked” by the mass death sentences handed down by the government for 329 Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Kerry told Fahmy that “he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition,” Psaki’s statement said. He urged Egypt to “follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy, including by conducting free, fair and transparent elections, and easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and the media.”
The administration has been under pressure from human rights advocates, including some in Congress, to press harder on Egypt to take a more democratic path. But many lawmakers also want the United States to ensure that Egypt will continue working with Israel, including in the violent Sinai Peninsula.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing foreign aid, said in a statement that she welcomed the administration’s decision and cited the need for Egypt to continue counter-terrorism operations in Sinai.
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