US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks to the traveling press about the US government shutdown, at his hotel in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday (Photo: AP)
US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel called his Egyptian counterpart Col. Gen. Sedki Sobhy Tuesday to inform him that the Congress would soon be negotiating to restore financial aid.
The US Department of Defence official website detailed the call readout between the two, in which Hagel informed Sobhi of President Barack Obama's decision to deliver 10 Apache helicopters in support of Egypt’s counterterrorism operations in Sinai.
“Secretary Kerry will soon certify to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States and is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty,” Hagel told Sobhy.
The obligations pertaining to the treaty are necessary for the aid funds.
However, Hagel also said they “are not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition.”
He urged the Egyptian government to “demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians.”
Bilateral relations between the two countries have been unstable since the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July amid massive protests against his rule. The US has been vocal against the Egyptian authorities’ stances since then.
In October of last year, Washington withheld from the Egyptian government deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles, as well as $260 million in cash aid, pending progress in the areas of democracy and human rights.
During the Tuesday phone call, Hagel noted that the delivered helicopters would help Egyptian security forces in their counter-insurgency against the rising militant attacks in the strategic Sinai Peninsula.
“This is one element of the president’s broader efforts to work with partners across the region to build their capacity to counter terrorist threats, and is the United States’ national security interest,” Hagel added.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy to inform him of the same decision, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement reported by AP.
Beyond the Apaches, the move also allows the US to release some of its annual $1.3 billion military assistance package to Egypt, specifically the parts dealing with security in the Sinai Peninsula and counterterrorism efforts, the statement added.
Kerry is set to meet Egypt's intelligence chief in Washington on Wednesday, according to AP.