US to release additional funds to Egypt upon congressional approval

Ayat Al-Tawy, Thursday 24 Apr 2014

State Department says next step in relaxing partial suspension of aid to Egypt is releasing $650 million in financing for limited security purposes

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki  (Photo: Reuters)
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (Photo: Reuters)

Washington said on Wednesday it would move forward with releasing $650 million in funding for Egypt, continuing to ease a partial aid suspension following the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi last year and a violent crackdown on his supporters.

The decision comes a day after the US said it would deliver ten Apache attack helicopters to Egypt to help the government in counter-terrorism operations in the border Sinai Peninsula, where the army is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said unlocking the $650 million in financing for the fiscal year 2014 was the next step to "support these critical security efforts and continue to fund contracts for other goods and services."

The measure hinges on two congressional notifications that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the US and maintaining its obligations under the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, the spokesperson told a regular press briefing.

Psaki said the US administration would work on the congressional notification and approval "soon."

Egypt has been among the largest beneficiaries of US military and economic aid for decades pursuant to a 1979 peace treaty with Washington's close ally Israel.

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 democracy and human rights.

The release of the funds is merely for "limited purposes" that include counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation, Psaki elaborated.

She said Washington, nevertheless, could release additional money, likely not cash, under these certifications.

"The 650 [million] is not the maximum that we’d be able to give under these certifications."

Separate congressional certifications will still be needed to unlock the frozen $1.5 billion in aid which will remain on hold until the US certifies that Egypt is progressing towards democratic governance.

Some "core steps" include "conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and media," Psaki said.

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