No new aid is likely to be approved for Egypt until after the U.S. presidential election, and talks aimed at breaking a logjam on spending funds already approved are on hold, the officials said. Several U.S. officials said that the delays are expected to be temporary and that there is no major reevaluation of U.S. aid to Egypt.
“Folks are going to wait and see how things materialize both with the protests and on Capitol Hill,” a congressional aide said.
The roughly $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt represents crucial economic assistance to a nation the United States has long considered an essential Arab partner — despite recent concerns about the new government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition to that assistance, President Obama has proposed $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, which owes Washington about $3 billion.
In the aftermath of the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year, Congress attached conditions to U.S. aid, including a requirement that the State Department certify that Egypt is abiding by its peace treaty with Israel. Now some lawmakers are talking about adding more conditions.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee called a hearing this week to examine U.S. relations with Egypt, but it was canceled Monday after the State Department declined to provide witnesses, committee spokesman Steve Sutton said.
A senior congressional staffer suggested that the course of events in the next couple of weeks will determine the long-term fate of U.S. assistance to Egypt. Other U.S. officials cast the delay as a natural reaction to the violence and a test of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s resolve, but they stressed that the United States is unlikely to set stringent conditions on aid or debt relief.
“We are continuing to work with the Hill on the support that we think is important to support those very forces of moderation, change, democracy, openness in Egypt that are very important for defeating extremism of the kind that we saw,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday.
Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would talk to Congress soon about U.S. aid and other issues affected by the protests.
Anti-American protests near the U.S. Embassy in Egypt stretched from Tuesday until Saturday last week, with many demonstrators calling for the U.S. ambassador to be tossed out of the country.
Just days before protests erupted outside the fortress-like embassy compound, American and Egyptian officials had been in the final stages of negotiating the details of assistance that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.