Mohammed Mursi

Egyptian foreign minister warns US over fractured relations

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 October, 2013, 4:53am

Turmoil in US-Egyptian relations could harm American interests throughout the Middle East and the country's military-backed government might seek aid elsewhere, possibly from rivals of the United States, the Egyptian foreign minister says.

The sharp tone of Nabil Fahmy's remarks appeared aimed at warning the Obama administration against trying to pressure Egyptian authorities into easing a harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's biggest Islamist movement.

Last week, the US announced a suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Egypt's powerful military, mainly in the form of hardware such as fighter jets and tanks.

Egypt's interim government had already described the American move as "incorrect". But Fahmy offered up a more wide-ranging critique of the relationship with the United States.

Egypt has for decades been one of the biggest beneficiaries of American assistance, which traditionally has been seen as helping to strengthen Cairo's commitment to its peace treaty with Israel.

"What makes the current disturbance in relations more critical than before this is that it comes at a sensitive time in Egypt's history, a very sensitive phase in the future of the entire Middle East," he said. "And the continuation of instability will reflect negatively on the entire region, including US interests."

Fahmy said there was no need for excessive deference on Egypt's part in its dealings with the US. That is a crowd-pleasing notion in a country with a notably prickly brand of national pride.

Rather than criticising US aid cuts, the minister suggested that Egypt would work to cultivate ties elsewhere. "The problem is caused by the dependence of Egypt on US aid for 30 years, which made us choose the easy option and not diversify our options," Fahmy said.