In an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo Wednesday night, President Obama said Egypt's relationship with the U.S. is complicated: ""I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy."
In fact, Egypt was declared a “Major Non-NATO ally" in 1989. So White House staff is doing a little clarifying today.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told Foreign Policy magazine Thursday that Obama was not signaling any kind of policy change.
"‘Ally' is a legal term of art," he said. "We don't have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt's transition to democracy and working with the new government."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave reporters a similar comment. "The president, in diplomatic and legal terms, was speaking correctly," he said. "We do not have an alliance treaty with Egypt. Ally is a legal term of art. As I said, we do not have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, like we do, for example, with our NATO allies."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that Egypt is still considered a major non-NATO ally.