Is US military aid to Egypt about to resume?
United States military aid could resume flowing to Egypt after US Secretary of State said he would inform Congress that Egypt has met the required conditions set by US lawmakers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy via telephone “that he is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” according to a State Department readout of the conversation. Kerry will also inform Congress “that Egypt is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”
Despite this Kerry also “noted that he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition,” which is one of the conditions necessary for the resumption of aid. Kerry also “urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy”, which includes holding democratic elections and “easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and the media”.
Congress passed a bill in January allocating $1.3bn in military aid to Egypt under certain conditions. The first instalment, worth $975m, was dependent on Egypt holding a referendum on a new constitution and showing it is “taking steps to support a democratic transition”. The second instalment, worth $576.8m, can be approved following the occurrence of parliamentary and presidential elections.
Stipulations set for the entire aid package outlined that Egypt must maintain its strategic relationship with the US and fulfil its obligations under the peace treaty with Israel.
The process to deliver ten Apache Helicopters and a plane that had undergone maintenance will begin “within a few weeks”. US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel told Minister of Defence Sedki Sobhi via telephone on Tuesday, “We believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian, and Israeli security.”
The return of military aid could help to ease tensions between Egypt and the US. Both countries have said that the relationship has deteriorated since the suspension of military aid, but both also stressed that they were committed to maintaining their strategic partnership.
During this time Egypt’s relations with Russia warmed significantly, leading to speculation of a military aid deal. The foreign ministry denied that a deal had been signed and that meetings and contact with Russia was part of a broader initiative “to add new friends and partners”, stressing that the US was not being replaced.
International rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch urged the US to recognise that “Egypt has made no progress on developing basic freedoms or on its democratic transition,” when reviewing its aid package to Egypt. The group outlined its concerns in a letter addressed to Kerry at the end of March.
The announcement comes days before Fahmy travels to Washington D.C to discuss bi-lateral relations and the Middle East peace process with Kerry. The minister is also expected to meet with “prominent officials within the administration and both houses of congress”. The ministry said he would discuss regional security issues, African issues, and United Nations reform. Efforts are being made to organise a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, according to the foreign ministry.
Fahmy will also travel to San Francisco where he will deliver a keynote address at the Global Philanthropy Forum.