Barack Obama lifts arms freeze on Egypt –

The Obama administration tied itself in linguistic knots to avoid describing the military takeover as a coup. US law requires the suspension of aid to countries where the government is deposed in a coup d’etat.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said: “The president explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to US and Egyptian interests in an unstable region.”

Egypt has taken on an expanded military role across the Middle East and North Africa in recent months, championing the formation of a pan-Arab intervention force. On Monday, Egypt made its first official foray into Yemen’s burgeoning conflict, using its warships to shell rebel positions in the port city of Aden.

In February, Egypt launched airstrikes against Islamic State (Isil) targets in Libya, after the extremist group kidnapped and beheaded 20 Egyptian Christians. Mr Sisi’s government is also fighting a jihadist insurgency at home, as Isil loyalists have taken root in Egypt’s eastern Sinai peninsula.

The US has been providing hundreds of millions of dollars in counterterrorism assistance to its ally, which didn’t stall as a result of the government overthrow. But the refusal to release the delivery of F-16 fighter remained an irritant in the American relationship with Egypt. Cairo said the hold-up was hampering its military capabilities.

Close observers of US-Egypt relations praised Tuesday’s news that the method of financing was to be restructured.

“The Egypt assistance package has become a tightly tangled knot over the past 30 years,” said Cole Bockenfeld, Director of Advocacy at the

Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy. “Rescinding cash flow financing is a long overdue step that will allow policymakers to eventually straighten out this outdated assistance relationship.”

Egypt’s military spokesman would not comment on Mr Obama’s Tuesday phone call, calling it a matter of national security.

In November, Mr Sisi’s government said it was mulling a ban on reporting on its armed forces without prior approval from senior military officials.


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