The United States State Department has defended its decision to renew $1.3bn in military aid to Egypt saying that it serves to protect US and regional security despite the increasing concern over Egypt’s democratic transition.
In a press briefing held on Friday, spokesperson for the State Department Jen Psaki said: “We have provided aid to Egypt on the basis of US national security interests.” She added that this aid has been “carefully considered” and that it “helps preserve important regional, such as maintaining access to the Suez Canal and the interdiction of weapons smuggling.”
Psaki confirmed that on 10 May, Secretary of State John Kerry “exercised his waiver authority requiring a certification on Egypt’s democratic transition.” Budget requests are usually discussed and approved by the US Congress. In this case Kerry’s use of a waiver meant that while Congress was informed of the decision, the representatives did not discuss it. Psaki denied that the decision was made in secret.
The spokesperson also denied that the decision to renew the military aid funding was related to last week’s NGO trial verdict, in which 43 NGO workers (including 17 US citizens) were found guilty of being involved illegal foreign funding. Psaki said: “Actions like the ruling on the NGO law do make it difficult to make the case to members of Congress… on the need to continue to approve this aid.”
Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte released a joint statement on 4 June following the verdict of the NGO trial. The three senators said: “Congress must conduct a comprehensive review of US assistance to Egypt.” Kerry also condemned the verdict describing it as “politically motivated”.
Psaki was also asked during the press briefing if the $1.3bn was provided as an obligation under the Camp David Accords. The State Department published an answer to this question on Saturday, which read: “The US is not obligated to provide assistance to Egypt. We provide assistance because it serves US national interests in a crucial and volatile region.”
The State Department also confirmed that the military aid is not part of $250m pledged to Egypt by Kerry in March. The response added: “We will continue to work closely with Congress to determine how best to assist the Egyptian people and promote Egypt’s democratisation and its economic stabilisation and development, as well as our regional security interests.”