Aid to Egypt could be restored if its military-backed government in Cairo proves it can respect minorities and human rights, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday after the Obama administration announced it was withholding “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
The decision to curtail military aid to Egypt does not mean Washington is severing ties with the country, Kerry said, describing the funding cut as a "recalibration" of its relationship.
“We want this government to succeed,” Kerry said of Egypt’s regime, which installed itself on July 3 in place of elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
His comments came after the State Department said Wednesday it was stopping large-scale military contributions such as F-16 fighter jets, the sale of which had already been halted; M1A1 tank kits; Harpoon missiles and Apache Helicopters. It said it would also halt $260 million in cash transfers and a planned $300 million loan guarantee.
Aid was cut after the military-backed government was involved in deadly clashes with protesters in Cairo in August, in which hundreds of supporters of the ousted Muslim Brotherhood were killed, prompting concerns about human rights in the country.
Egypt’s government criticized the decision. Badr Abdel Ati, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign minister, said it was "incorrect in content and timing.”
He also questioned the commitment of the US strategic assistance to Egypt “in light of the challenges and dangers posed by terrorism the country is experiencing.”
The halts in aid would not be permanent, an official said, but rather be contingent on progress in Egypt's democratic transition.
Kerry told reporters in Malaysia, where he is on a visit, that the U.S. wanted to see an Egyptian constitution "that recognizes universal human rights, that respects minorities, that brings people to the table in an inclusive way ... and ultimately results in free and fair elections."
"In our conversations with the Egyptians, they insist to us that that is exactly the roadmap that they are on, that that is what they intend to achieve. And what we're doing is holding back a certain element of the aid which we don't believe is relevant to the immediate needs of this government in terms of the roadmap or in terms of their security.
"We want this government to succeed, but we want it also to be the kind of government that Americans will feel comfortable supporting and being engaged in."
He indicated that aid would resume "on a basis of performance, and it'll be on the basis of what evolves over the course of the roadmap in the next months."