WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama said late Wednesday that Egypt was
neither an ally nor an enemy, and that determining the relationship between
Washington and Cairo would depend in part on the latter’s adherence to the peace
treaty with Israel.
“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally,
but we don’t consider them an enemy. They’re a new government that is trying to
find its way,” Obama told Telemundo (a Spanish-language US television network)
in an interview the day after anti- American riots broke out in Egypt and Libya,
leaving four US diplomats in Benghazi dead.
“We are going to have to see
how they respond to this incident, how they respond to, for example, maintaining
the peace treaty with Israel,” he explained.
Obama indicated it would be
a “real big problem” if the new government in Cairo didn’t adhere to
responsibilities such as ensuring that the US Embassy is secure, but said that
as a brand-new democracy, Egypt would need time to develop many basic
institutions, and that the US understood there would be “some rocky
Despite Obama’s comments to Telemundo, White House spokesman Jay
Carney said Thursday that “Egypt is a 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,” referring to the
term “ally” as “a legal term of art.”
Carney also said that at this time
the US had no intention of changing its aid to Egypt.
Obama spoke to
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy by phone Wednesday night and expressed the
American interest “in a relationship based on mutual interests and mutual
respect,” according to a statement put out by the White House.
stressed the importance of Egypt securing US diplomatic facilities and
personnel, and also that he rejected “efforts to denigrate Islam.”
same time, the statement said, Obama “underscored that there is never any
justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American
personnel and facilities.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
specifically referred to the anti-Islam video fingered for triggering the riots
as “disgusting and reprehensible” during a press availability with Moroccan
Foreign Minister Saad Eddine al-Othmani on Thursday.
She described it as
designed “to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”
also pointed out that the United States was in no way connected to the video and
that “we absolutely reject its content and message.” But, she added, “There is
no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with
Clinton noted that US law did not “stop individual citizens
from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be,” and that
however offensive one’s view were, “there should be no debate about the simple
proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable.”