Egypt condemns US decision to suspend military aid

The US supplies a large amount of military equipment and support to Egypt - but that is on hold for now

Egypt has criticised a decision by the US to suspend a large part of the $1.3bn (£810m) in aid it receives, following months of political turmoil.

A government spokesman in Cairo said the move was wrong and Egypt would "not surrender to American pressure".

The US said this week it was suspending the delivery of large-scale military systems and withholding cash support.

John Kerry said the decision to slash aid to Egypt was "by no means" a withdrawal from relations

But US Secretary of State John Kerry later stressed the decision was not "a withdrawal from our relationship".

"The interim government understands very well our commitment to the success of this government," Mr Kerry said.

He was speaking shortly after Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty criticised Washington's move, saying Egypt was "continuing on its path towards democracy".

Since the Egyptian army ousted Mohammed Morsi as president in July, the authorities have clashed repeatedly with his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

The US state department launched a review of its aid to Egypt in August after a crackdown that left hundreds of people dead.

Analysis

The US administration is seeking to have it both ways - on the one hand delaying the supply of big-ticket weaponry to Egypt's military while doing nothing that might damage its ability to wage operations in Sinai against Islamist extremists.

All the signals from Washington are that this is a temporary measure - "a recalibration" of aid as one official put it. Quite what the Egyptian military will make of it is open to question.

Bolstered by Saudi funds, the Egyptian military is proceeding at its own pace to restore some semblance of democracy. And there is little indication that it is much worried by Washington's concerns.

In the curious dynamics of the Middle East it knows that any long-term aid cut-off is unthinkable. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt essentially rests on the provision of generous funding to Egypt's armed forces.

The partial cut-off is a sign that the US is struggling to apply leverage against its long-time Egyptian ally.

On Wednesday, it said it would halt the delivery of Apache helicopters, as well as Harpoon missiles and tank parts.

Washington would also halt a $260m cash transfer and a $300m loan guarantee, officials said.

The freeze was not intended to be permanent, the state department added.

"We will continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says the suspension of aid is more symbolic than a painful cut in essential aid.

The announcement had been expected, with deliveries of military hardware already halted, a military exercise cancelled, and cash aid in effect on hold since the summer, our correspondent says.

The US will continue to provide health and education assistance, and money to help Egypt to ensure security in the increasingly volatile Sinai peninsula.

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