“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt,” President Obama said today, “our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.”
The president announced that the United States has cancelled the biannual joint military exercise with Egypt, which had been scheduled for September.
“The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days,” Obama said. “And to the Egyptian people, let me say that the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop.” He called for both sides to halt attacks, including violence by protesters against the country’s churches.
“America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for the Egyptian people,” he said. “We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure.”
The president made his remarks from his rented vacation home in on Matha’s vineyard, where he has been on vacation since Sunday.
Egypt saw an explosion of violence yesterday when the military cleared Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins around the country. The crackdown came a little over a month after, following massive protests against the MB-controlled government, the military seized power and arrested key members of the Brotherhood (it has since appointed civilian officials to run the government).
The United States has avoided calling the Egyptian military’s actions a coup because congressional restrictions require cutting off aid to countries where the miliary has seized power; today the president termed the late-June events an “intervention.”
Egyptian authorities put the death toll from yesterday’s clashes at 525 dead with another 3,717 injured. The Muslim Brotherhood estimated that 2,600 were dead and an additional 10,000 were injured, figures which the Associated Press termed “extremely high in light of footage by regional and local TV networks,” as well as its own reporting.
The United States had condemned the violence before the president’s statement – Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that a “path towards violence leads only to greater instability, economic disaster, and suffering.” Kerry lamented that the promise of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, which ended the reign of strongman Hosni Mubarak end and led to the first free elections in the country’s history, “has simply never been fully realized, and the final outcome of that revolution is not yet decided.”