WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday he hoped to decide soon on whether to restore the full $1.5 billion in American aid to Egypt.
“We want this interim transitional government to succeed. We are committed to try to help make that happen,” Kerry told lawmakers at a hearing into the State Department’s 2015 budget request.
Washington has struggled to define its policies towards Egypt since the military toppled democratically-elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
While refusing to term Morsi’s ouster a “coup,” arguing he had failed to heed the call for democratic reforms after long-term autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak was removed from office, Washington has warily eyed crackdowns by Egypt’s new military-installed leadership.
In October, Washington froze a large part of its $1.5 billion in aid – mostly military big-ticket arms deals – to Cairo, saying the new government needed to put the country back on the road to democracy.
Kerry told lawmakers he had discussed the aid issue with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on the sidelines of Paris talks last week, and had also spoken by phone with Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
“It is our hope to be able to make that transfer (of aid), providing there’s a conclusion drawn by our team with respect to some of the things we’ve been anticipating them doing,” Kerry said.
Washington and Cairo have “a strong security relationship … a strong military-to-military relationship. They want that to be strong, we want it to be strong,” he added.
“I’m hopeful that in the days ahead I can make the appropriate decision. And when I say days ahead, I mean short term.”
Asked whether the U.S. administration would release the aid before presidential elections expected this spring, Kerry said: “I can’t absolutely say with certainty, but it’s our hope to be able to do that very soon.”
Defense Minister Sisi has raised eyebrows by indicating he may well run in the elections, although he has not yet made a formal announcement.