CHILMARK/VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. (Reuters) — President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that the United States is cancelling joint military exercises with Egypt next month, saying normal U.S. cooperation cannot continue in light of the armed forces’ bloody crackdown.
“The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces,” Obama said on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on vacation.
“We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest,” he said in his first public remarks since the crackdown began early Wednesday. More than 600 people have been killed and thousands wounded.
Washington provides $1.3 billion in military aid and about $250 million in economic aid to Egypt every year, which it has been reluctant to cut off for fear of losing leverage there and in the broader region.
Stopping military exercises in Egypt was one clear way the White House could show its displeasure. It was the first significant U.S. move to penalize Egypt’s military rulers. Previously, the U.S. government had announced a decision to halt delivery to Egypt of four U.S.-made F-16 fighters.
Some analysts and lawmakers questioned whether the cancellation of the “Bright Star” military exercises was enough.