United States Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel spoke with Egyptian Minister of Defence Colonel General Sedki Sobhi for the first time on Sunday since the latter’s appointment on 26 March, succeeding Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who had resigned to run for president.
The US Department of Defence announced in a statement on Sunday that the 20 minute phone-call between the two involved Hagel congratulating Sobhy on his promotion and a discussion about a range of regional security issues.
The discussion shed light on the ongoing threat of “terrorist networks”, as well as the importance of free and fair elections for Egypt’s political transition.
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby said: “Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strong US-Egyptian relations.”
Following the Camp David Accords, the United States provides Egypt with more than $1.3bn in annual military and security assistance.
According to the US embassy in Cairo website, the aid aims to “support Egypt’s leadership role promoting regional security in the Middle East and North Africa; [and] enable a modern Egyptian military that respects human rights, rule of law and civilian control of the military.”
The military aid would also sustain cooperation with Egypt in securing its borders and combating terrorism and violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa.
In August 2013, President Barack Obama suspended US participation in the joint US-Egypt military exercise known as Bright Star, which is conducted every two years, to protest the dispersal of the sit-ins in support of ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda squares. Bright Star was also cancelled in 2011 due political turmoil after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.
Military aid was also suspended in October, but according to the “Egypt Assistance Reform Act” passed in December 2013, foreign funding could return to Egypt in the 2014 fiscal year.
The bill is conditioned with Secretary of State John Kerry’s assessment of Egypt’s commitment to strategic relationship with the US and its obligations in the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. The bill is also restricted by the Egyptian government’s commitment to a democratic transition.
Additional reporting by Joel Gulhane.