August 15, 2013

Obama scraps U.S. military exercises with Egypt – but not aid

The Bright Star military exercise has been a centerpiece of the two countries' military relations for decades.

The Associated Press

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President Barack Obama makes a statement to the media regarding events in Egypt, from his rental vacation home on the island of Martha's Vineyard Thursday.

AP

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"I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong," he said. "We've been blamed by supporters of Morsi. We've been blamed by the other side, as if we are supporters of Morsi."

"That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve," Obama said.

The military-backed government has pledged to amend the Islamist-backed constitution adopted under Morsi last year. The interim leaders have also promised to hold parliamentary and presidential elections early next year.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a phone call with Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, suggested there could be further consequences for the decades-long military ties between the two countries if the interim government does not quickly move toward political reconciliation.

"The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a military relationship with Egypt, but I made it clear that the violence and inadequate steps toward reconciliation are putting important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk," Hagel said in a statement following the call.

The Bright Star maneuvers — long the centerpiece of U.S. military cooperation with Egypt — were scheduled to begin next month and last for three weeks. Several other countries, including Turkey, Jordan and Britain, have also participated in the ground, air and naval exercises.

The U.S. also postponed the once-every-two-years exercises in 2011. Egypt at the time was grappling with the fallout from the revolution that ousted Mubarak.

Also Thursday, the State Department updated its travel warning for Americans in Egypt, telling U.S. citizens to defer travel there and urging Americans living in Egypt to depart. The travel warning stated that the political unrest stemming from the "change of government" showed little sign of abating.

 

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