US President Barak Obama said yesterday that the United States does not currently consider Egypt to be either an ally or an enemy, as Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi travelled to Brussels for his first visit to Europe hoping to reassure the European Union of his democratic credentials and win pledges of economic aid.
President Obama was speaking with reference to violent clashes at the US embassy in Cairo, over a US-made anti-Islamic film that sparked anger among Muslims. His comments also came after the storming of the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed the US ambassador on Tuesday.
He referred to US-Egypt relations as a ‘work in progress … I don’t think we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way,’ Obama said in a television interview with Spanish-language network Telemundo.
He said that so far Egypt’s government has ‘said the right thing and taken the right steps’ but it has also responded to other events in ways that ‘may not be aligned with our interests.’
Obama’s comments were made whilst Mursi was in Europe, hoping to secure urgently needed economic aid to revive his country’s broken economy. His tour, however, has somewhat been dominated by the ongoing violence against Americans in Arab countries due to a B-Movie critical of Islam.
Mursi noted on Thursday that he backed peaceful protest but not attacks on embassies, after Egyptians angry at the film climbed into the US embassy in Cairo and tore down the American flag.
In Brussels yesterday, the EU offered Egypt economic aid of up to £560 million, indicating how European governments are trying to build ties with the Islamist rulers brought to power in Egypt’s first free elections.
Europe is keen to keep Egypt as a firm ally of the West after the collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s government last year. The EU’s high Representative, Catherine Ashton, in a statement yesterday said she discussed with Mursi the ‘current political situation in Egypt and the next steps with the transition.’ She added that the goal of collective EU support was to encourage Egypt’s ‘democratic transition and to help restore economic and investor confidence.’
‘Our objective is to bring the EU and the new democratic Egypt as close together as possible through cooperation in all sectors. This means political support but also economic support to tourism, job creation and investment, and the transfer of technology between industries and universities: a true political and economic partnership,’ Ashton said. She added that solving these problems would provide both ‘political and economic stability’ to Egypt.