Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a media availability at the State Department in Washington, Friday, April 11, 2014(Photo: AP)
The Obama administration said Tuesday it has certified that Egypt is upholding its 35-year-old peace treaty with Israel and therefore qualifies for some military and counterterrorism assistance.
A congressional aide said the decision clears the way for the release of Apache helicopters to Egypt, which the United States has held up since the July ouster of Egyptian Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government.
"Today, Secretary (of State John) Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister (Nabil) Fahmy to inform him that he is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States, including by countering transnational threats such as terrorism and weapons proliferation, and that Egypt is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in an emailed statement.
Beyond the Apaches, the move allows the U.S. also to release some of its annual $1.3 billion military assistance package to Egypt, specifically those parts dealing with security in the Sinai Peninsula and counterterrorism efforts.
Kerry was to meet Egypt's intelligence chief in Washington on Wednesday.
The aide wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the decision and demanded anonymity.
The notification deals specifically with Egypt's adherence to the Camp David Accords and not its progression toward democratic rule.
Psaki said Kerry "noted that he is not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition. He urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy, including by conducting free, fair and transparent elections, and easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and the media."
The administration notified Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees foreign aid. Leahy has written legislative language restricting military aid to Egypt. He has argued that U.S. law is clear: When a military coup occurs, U.S. aid should be cut off.
Sending a full certification to Congress for the resumption of Egypt aid would signal U.S. approval for Egypt's path toward a return to democracy.
Once Kerry issues that certification, the U.S. can resume other military and civilian assistance programs.