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Obama Admin Snubs Egypt on Summit Invites, Risking Further Bilateral Deterioration

The U.S.-Egypt relationship is in danger of further deterioration, with a diplomatic snub last week having revived Egyptian frustrations that first crystallized when the Obama administration last fall took the widely criticized and now functionally reversed decision to partially halt military aid to Cairo.Washington’s broadside was made in response to the army’s July removal of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked President Mohammed Morsi, a move that came after Morsi publicly defied mass anti-government protests calling for his resignation. In a rare interview that came even before the White House announced it was freezing some assistance, Egyptian General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi – the head of the country’s army and by most reckonings its next president – was already responding to threats of U.S. action by declaring “you turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that” and asking “now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians” (the Washington Post, which was conducting the interview, dryly assessed that Sisi’s comments were “a measure of just how thoroughly the Obama administration has alienated both sides in… Egypt”). Last week the White House issued an invitation to 47 African leaders to attend an American-African economic summit to be held in Washington later this year. Egypt was excluded from the invitation list. Pressed for details, State Department Deputy Press Secretary Marie Harf told reporters that the decision was a function of Egypt having been suspended from the African Union (AU). Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Badr Abdelbati expressed himself surprised at State’s rationale, if for no other reason than the AU is unconnected to the summit.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelbati said the US decision was a “mistake” and displayed a “lack of vision”. “Egypt was very surprised by the US statement about its reasons, especially as the summit is not being held under the auspices of the African Union and is simply a summit between the United States and African countries,” the spokesman said.

Others have pointed out that Morocco, which is invited, is not an AU member. The Egyptians described the snub as “erroneous and shortsighted.” Analysts worry that the erosion of U.S.-Egyptian ties will damage America’s ability to project power across northern Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. military has long relied on traditionally close ties to Cairo to secure favorable overflight rights and preferential treatment in transiting through the Suez Canal.

[Photo: RT / YouTube]