President Obama on Thursday broke his silence on the widespread violence in Egypt, canceling a joint military exercise planned with the longtime U.S. ally next month. However, the president did not outline any efforts to cut off aid to the Egyptian government in the wake of more than 500 deaths in the streets of Cairo.
“Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual while civilians are being killed in the streets,” Obama said from his vacation retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, announcing the cancellation of the military exercise.
The president added that U.S. officials were reviewing possible further steps but stopped short of linking $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid to the violence in Egypt. The White House is facing pressure to halt financial support for the Egyptian government as long as the bloodshed there continues.
The canceling of the military exercise is more symbolic than crippling to the Egyptian government, amounting to a warning of more significant penalties.
The volatile situation in Cairo spiraled even further out of control on Thursday, as the Muslim Brotherhood urged supporters to organize protest marches against security forces. Military and police officials early Wednesday stormed sit-ins organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, launching Cairo’s bloodiest day in decades.
Obama condemned the establishment of emergency law in Egypt and called for a peaceful transition to a democratic government.
“America cannot determine what’s best for Egypt, that’s a task for the Egyptian people,” Obama said. “We want Egypt to succeed; we want a peaceful democratic Egypt; that’s our interest.”
Obama made his remarks from the driveway of his vacation residence on Martha’s Vineyard. The president waited more than 24 hours to address the simmering violence, opening up the White House to criticism for not responding to the crisis more forcefully.
Obama ignored questions shouted at him by reporters about whether the U.S. would halt aid for Egypt.