U.S. to deliver F-16 fighters to Egypt despite recent upheaval
The United States is pressing ahead with plans to deliver four F-16 fighters to Egypt despite a military coup against President Mohammed Morsi, a US official said Thursday.
“It’s still the status quo,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
There was no decision to halt the scheduled transfer of the warplanes or to cut off other security assistance to Egypt, the official said, even though the US government has announced a review of all aid to Cairo.
President Barack Obama’s administration has said it is examining whether the military takeover constitutes a coup, which under US law would force Washington to freeze any aid to Egypt.
The State Department said previously planned assistance would continue to flow to Egypt.
“We’re still paying our bills, of course, and all of the programs are still moving forward,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
The Pentagon said it remains dedicated to maintaining longstanding military ties with Egypt and that the United States wants to see a prompt return to civilian, democratic rule.
“Looking forward, we will work with the Egyptian people to support a quick and responsible return to a sustainable, democratically elected civilian government,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“Given the events of last week, the president has directed relevant departments and agencies to review our assistance to the government of Egypt.”
The F-16s are part of an arms deal with Egypt approved in 2010 that calls for the supply of 20 of the fighter jets.
Eight of the warplanes were delivered earlier this year and four more are scheduled to be delivered in August, with another eight due later in the year, officials said.
Egypt has received more than 220 F-16 fighters since 1980 and has the world’s fourth largest F-16 fleet, behind the United States, Israel and Turkey.
With Egypt gripped by intense political turmoil, the Obama administration has relied on the US military’s deep ties with the Egyptian armed forces as its main channel for diplomacy and communication.
Since July 2, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has had eight phone conversations with Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including one that lasted 45 minutes, Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters.
“We believe that it’s appropriate to use this important channel we have with the Egyptians to convey our insights, thoughts and our views on the situation that’s occurring in Egypt,” Little said Wednesday.
The United States provides $1.5 billion of mostly military aid to Egypt every year.