President Barack Obama interrupted his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard on Thursday morning to comment on the violence in Egypt that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of pro-Muslim Brotherhood protestors at the hands of the Egyptian military this week. The president announced the cancellation of biannual joint military exercises between U.S. and Egyptian forces: “Our traditional cooperation cannot continue,” he said.
The president also said that his national security advisers would continue to study the implications of the violence, and recommend additional steps “as necessary.” He did not mention any potential cuts to aid to Egypt, which some members of Congress have suggested but which are opposed both by the Pentagon and Israel, as such aid is linked to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and stopping terror in the Sinai peninsula.
The president expressed support for what he described as the democratic goals of the protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011–who had been strongly pro-American, and whom Obama supported until after the political tide began to turn. There would be “false starts” and “difficult days” on the path to democracy, he said Thursday, adding: “America’s democratic dream took us through some difficult days.”
Obama described the recent coup and the subsequent violence with concern: “The cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop,” he said. He criticized both the military and supporters of Egypt’s recently ousted, democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi. “We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully,” he said, condemning attacks by pro-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators on Christian churches.
The president added that while it was tempting for both sides in Egypt to blame America for the ongoing troubles, the U.S. was not backing any faction and that “all parties need to have a voice in Egypt’s future.”
“We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That’s in our interest. But to achieve that, Egyptians are gonna to have to do the work,” Obama said. He did not take any questions.