Egypt: U.S. aid suspension “errant”

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Egypt’s military rulers called the U.S. freeze on some forms of military assistance “errant in both substance and timing.”

“The decision raises serious questions regarding the United States’ readiness to provide constant strategic support for Egyptian economic and security programs,” said a foreign ministry statement sent to reporters Thursday evening by the Egyptian embassy in Washington.

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The Obama administration on Wednesday announced that it would suspend delivery of some “large scale military systems” to Egypt but will maintain financial aid to help secure its border with Israel.

In recent weeks, as the Egyptian military has stepped up its crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated opponents of the regime, the Obama administration has signaled it would reconsider aid.

That reversed its original reluctance to penalize the military for the July 3 coup, which removed from the presidency Mohammed Morsi, who was affiliated to the Brotherhood.

“The United States continues to support a democratic transition and oppose violence as a means of resolving differences within Egypt,” said the statement by Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman.

Psaki did not say how much of the $1.5 billion in annual assistance — $1.3 billion of it in defense aid – would be cut, but she outlined areas where assistance would continue, suggesting that at least some of the defense aid would be diverted to civil society programs.

The decision was “errant in both substance and timing,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said, “despite the fact that the decision is of a temporary nature and does not terminate or reduce the aid programs and that it was accompanied by assurances that the United States will continue to support the interim government in Egypt.”

The statement said that Egypt remained “keen to maintain its good relations with the United States” but added that its internal affairs and security decisions would be taken in an “independent manner.”