WASHINGTON, District of Columbia,Â Aug 15, 2013Â (AFP)
The United StatesÂ will retain its military ties with Egypt but more violence by the army couldÂ jeopardize the relationship, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the country’sÂ military chiefÂ Thursday.
Hagel said he had called General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s defenseÂ minister and the central figure in the interim government, to express USÂ concern after Wednesday’s brutal crackdown on supporters of ousted presidentÂ Mohamed Morsi.
“The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a militaryÂ relationship with Egypt, but I made it clear that the violence and inadequateÂ steps towards reconciliation are putting important elements of ourÂ longstanding defense cooperation at risk,” Hagel said.
Hagel’s warning follows an earlier announcement from President Barack ObamaÂ cancelling a joint exercise due to be held next month because of the EgyptianÂ army’s violent crackdownÂ WednesdayÂ that left hundreds of protesters dead.
“Since the recent crisis began, the United States has made it clear thatÂ the Egyptian government must refrain from violence, respect freedom ofÂ assembly, and move toward an inclusive political transition,” Hagel said.
“Recent developments, including the violence that has resulted in hundredsÂ of deaths across the country, have undermined those principles.”
Due to the US military’s decades-long ties with the Egyptian army, HagelÂ has become the Obama administration’s main conduit for communicating withÂ Cairo as the crisis has unfolded.
The Pentagon chief has had more than 15 phone conversations with Sisi sinceÂ July 2, the day before the army’s coup that removed president Morsi from power.
“In my discussion with Minister Al-Sisi, I reiterated that the UnitedÂ States remains ready to work with all parties to help achieve a peaceful,Â inclusive way forward,” Hagel added.
Commentators, rights advocates and some lawmakers have criticized the ObamaÂ administration for not taking stronger action, urging completely cutting offÂ aid to Cairo.
But Pentagon spokesman George Little insisted that calling off the exerciseÂ sent “a clear signal to Egyptian authorities that we’re deeply concerned aboutÂ recent events in the country.”
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