WASHINGTON, 11 JULY: The USA is moving ahead with plans to deliver four F-16s to Egypt despite the ongoing debate about the military’s overthrow of President Mohammed Mursi and whether it legally constitutes a coup that could shut off aid to the country.
Defence officials say senior administration leaders discussed the delivery and decided to let it continue. The fighters are part of a $1.3 billion package approved in 2010 that included 20 F-16s and some M1A1 Abrams tank kits.
About half of the aid package has been dispersed, as reported by officials.
Eight of the F-16s were delivered in January, the next four are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks and the final eight will be sent later this year.
News of the impending weapons delivery to the Egyptian military came as the administration continued to make the case that it is staying neutral in the crisis.
The White House and state department reiterated the view yesterday that it would not be in the United States’ national security interests to interrupt US aid to Egypt, including to the armed forces, as would be required by law if Mr Mursi’s ouster is determined to have been a coup.
“We do not believe it is in the best interests of the United States to make immediate changes to our assistance programs,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters, adding that the administration is going to take its time to make any determinations about the removal of Mr Mursi from power.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted that aid to Egypt “has been around for quite some time and has a range of reasons as to why we do it.”
The comments come after a week of violence and widespread demonstrations and as defence secretary Chuck Hagel and other US leaders make repeated calls to their counterparts in Egypt urging an end to the violence and a quick transition to a civilian government.
Mr Hagel has spoken to Egypt’s defence minister, Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, eight times in the last nine days, with one phone call lasting as long as 45 minutes.