Official declines to comment on reports of canceled Egyptian-US meeting

Washington, DC —The military attache at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC has declined to comment on news reports saying that an Egyptian military delegation surprisingly cancelled its meeting with US Congress, State Department and Pentagon officials on Monday.

“We held meetings with some Congress members and apologized for not convening with the rest. We cannot meet with all Senate and House members,” General Mohamed al-Keshky told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

The meetings were cancelled after warnings from both Congress and the White House that Egypt's crackdown on non-governmental organizations and recent referral of 19 American NGO workers to criminal court could threaten US military aid to Egypt. The US is slated to provide the Egyptian military with US$1.3 billion in aid.

Keshky revealed that the discussions held with the US Congress members focused on military cooperation between both states then shifted to the NGO raids and prosecutions of a number of US citizens in Egypt. 

Keshky described talks with the US officials as "entirely successful," adding that the delegation managed to fulfill its mission before leaving on Monday.

"In our meetings with American lawmakers, we stressed the independence of Egypt's judiciary, and maintained that no one can intervene in its decisions. We confirmed that our aim is to achieve justice and ensure Egypt's interests," he said.

The military official said the Egyptian side emphasized the strong ties between the two countries, noting that this relationship cannot be affected by "secondary incidents."

Commenting on US threats to cut off aid to Egypt, Keshky said this decision is up to the US. "It is our priority to preserve our national security," he stressed.

Keshky added that the Egyptian delegation told the American officials that the majority of Egyptians stand by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and trust its ability to manage the transition period. He said the delegation cited a recent poll by the US-based Gallup Organization which said that 88 percent of Egyptians largely trust the armed forces.

"The talks with US defense officials focused on joint drills. We discussed the possibility of incorporating as many African states as possible in these drills," Keshky noted, adding that a Pentagon delegation will visit Egypt in coming months.

The Egyptian military delegation started its official visit to the US on 29 January, but tension has risen over past weeks due to the NGO raids and Egypt’s recent indictment of NGO workers.

Nineteen Americans are among 43 foreign and Egyptian activists whose cases have been referred to criminal court by Egypt's army-backed government. A number of the US citizens involved have sought refuge in the US Embassy in Cairo.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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