U.S. to release $650 million in aid to Egypt
The U.S. says the aid will be used for Egyptian authorities for "limited purposes" such as counterterrorism, border security and nonproliferation (Mohammed Al Shahed/AFP)
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Washington said on Wednesday it would move forward with releasing $650 million in funding for Egypt, continuing to ease a partial aid suspension following the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi last year and a violent crackdown on his supporters.
The decision comes a day after the US said it would deliver ten Apache attack helicopters to Egypt to "counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian, and Israeli security."
State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said unlocking the $650 million in financing for the fiscal year 2014 was the next step to "support these critical security efforts and continue to fund contracts for other goods and services."
The measure hinges on two congressional notifications that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the US and maintaining its obligations under the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the spokesperson told a regular press briefing.
Psaki said the US administration would work on the congressional notification and approval "soon."
Egypt has been among the largest beneficiaries of US military and economic aid for decades pursuant to a 1979 peace treaty with Washington's close ally Israel.
In October of last year, Washington withheld from the Egyptian government deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles, as well as $260 million in cash aid, pending progress in democracy and human rights.
The release of the funds is merely for "limited purposes" that include counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation, Psaki elaborated.
She said Washington, nevertheless, could release additional money, likely not cash, under these certifications.
"The 650 [million] is not the maximum that we’d be able to give under these certifications."
Separate congressional certifications will still be needed to unlock the frozen $1.5 billion in aid which will remain on hold until the US certifies that Egypt is progressing towards democratic governance.
Some "core steps" include "conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and media," Psaki said.
By Ayat Al Tawy