By Menan Khater
United States Secretary of State John Kerry has informed his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, that the US intends to proceed with deliveries of 10 Apache helicopters to the Egyptian military.
Kerry said in a phone call with Shoukry on Friday that he recognises the threat from extremists groups to the whole region, especially in Sinai.
Kerry was quoted as saying by US Embassy Acting Spokesman Walter Parrs: “We believe the new helicopters are a critical tool that will help the Egyptian government counter those threats”. Kerry described Egypt as a “strategic partner of the United States on key regional issues”.
The decision was made in support of Egypt’s current turbulent security situation. Crossfire between Egypt’s armed forces and rebel groups in the Sinai Peninsula has led to 400 deaths from both parties between January through August 2014, including civilians, according to Egyptian military reports.
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty confirmed there was a phone call but declined to provide further details.
The US congress decided in October 2013 to suspend part of its aid pending democratic reforms. However, in January, the US Congress passed a bill, making $1.3bn in military aid available to Egypt in 2014.
Among the requirements Egypt must meet to receive the aid is that it maintains “the strategic relationship with the US”. In June, $572m of the total $1.3bn military aid was released to Egypt.
Kerry and Shoukry also discussed Egyptian efforts to facilitate the ceasefire initiative between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza. Kerry said: “Egypt has also been a strategic partner of the United States on key regional issues, as shown by their helpful role in reaching a ceasefire in Gaza.”
Egyptian Defence Minister General Sedki Sobhi met Saturday with a US-congressional delegation to foster relations between both countries, through exchanging insights on restoring security in the region.
In the transitional phase after the ouster of the former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt signed several economic and aid agreement, including aid packages of up to $5.8bn in January from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.