President Obama says the United States is cancelling its biennial joint military exercise with Egypt, scheduled for September, in response to violence in the country between Egyptian security forces and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” Obama said in Chilmark, Massachusetts.
The president’s remarks came the day after hundreds were killed. He condemned the violence as well as the interim government’s decision to reinstitute emergency law.
Obama said the cycle of violence and escalation on both sides is feeding the country’s cycle of polarization and “needs to stop,” and that along with lifting the state of emergency, a national reconciliation process giving all parties a voice in Egypt’s future should begin.
“We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches,” he said, adding that the rights of women and the country’s religious minorities should be respected.
“Commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms to the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a president. And pursuing that path will help Egypt meet the democratic aspirations of its people while attracting the investment, tourism and international support that can help it deliver opportunities to its citizens,” he said.
The United States wants to partner with the Egyptian people in their pursuit of a better future, but it is up to Egyptians themselves to determine what that future will be, he said.
“We appreciate the complexity of the situation. While Mohamed Morsy was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians,” he said.
But at the same time, “we don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure,” Obama said.
“I know it’s tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what’s gone wrong. We’ve been blamed by supporters of Morsy; we’ve been blamed by the other side as if we are supporters of Morsy. That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve,” he said.
The United States wants to see Egyptians work together to succeed as a peaceful, democratic and prosperous country, and the president acknowledged that it will be difficult at times.
“There are going to be false starts. There will be difficult days. America’s democratic journey took us through some mighty struggles to perfect our union. From Asia to the Americas, we know that democratic transitions are measured not in months or even years, but sometimes in generations,” Obama said.