WASHINGTON, August 16, 2013 – President Barack Obama today condemned the recent violence in Egypt that has taken the lives of more than 500 people and wounded thousands more and announced the U.S. is canceling participation in next month’s Bright Star Exercise with the Egyptian military in response Aug. 15.
Speaking from Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Obama also said he has asked his national security team to study other steps his administration might take in response to the crisis.
The United States has already postponed delivery to Egypt of F-16 fighter jets in response to violence over the past month.
The president said Egypt is on a “dangerous” path, and called on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi as well as the military-backed interim government to negotiate an end to the crisis.
“We appreciate the complexity of the situation,” Obama said. “While Mohammed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive, and did not respect the views of all Egyptians.”
Obama noted that probably a majority of Egyptians were dissatisfied with Morsi’s rule.
“While we do not believe force is a way to resolve political differences, after the military’s intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for political reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path,” he said.
The result, unfortunately, has been hundreds of deaths.
“Let me say, the Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days,” the president said. “And to the Egyptian people, let me say, the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop. We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully, and condemn the attacks that we’ve seen by protesters, including on churches.”
The U.S. government believes Egypt’s interim government should lift the state of emergency, and that a process of national reconciliation should begin.
“America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” Obama said. “That’s a task for the Egyptian people.”
Yet many inside Egypt are tempted to blame America for the situation in the country, he said.
“We’ve been blamed by supporters of Morsi. We’ve been blamed by the other side as if we are supporters of Morsi,” Obama said. “That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve. We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That’s our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work.”