In the wake of the U.S. suspending significant military support to Egypt, that country will “find other sources” if its national security needs are not met, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“If your friends in the region, when they’re facing terrorism in particular, cannot depend on a continuous supply of equipment that deals with terrorism, then you are obviously going to raise questions in the mind of those friends about your dependability,” he told Amanpour, referring to the United States. “And that will affect your interests as well as those of your friends, like Egypt.”
Fahmy called the suspension of some aid a “freeze, or delay” – not a “cut-off.”
The United States announced last week that it would withdraw a significant portion of its military aid to Egypt.
The decision came after months of debate since President Morsy was deposed in early July. The American government did not call that a “coup”; if it had done so, it would then have been legally obligated to withdraw aid.
But the harsh government crackdown on pro-Morsy protestors in the past – including hundreds killed in August and dozens just last week – was seen as a step too far by the interim government.
Fahmy pleaded with the international community to be patient with Egypt.
“I refer you back to the U.S. system,” Fahmy said. “It took you a very long number of years before you gave African Americans equal rights in America. So let’s just respect how difficult it has been.”
Former President Morsy’s trial is set to begin next month; he has been charged with committing and inciting violence.
“For lack of a better term, we’re between a rock and a hard place,” Fahmy said of the trial. “If there is no trial, then people will argue that you cannot hold somebody under arrest without putting him before the courts, and I agree with that.”
Fahmy admitted that the trial will be a “difficult phase.”
“Once you put him to trial obviously it will raise tensions,” he told Amanpour. “But we have to respect the law, we have to allow for due diligence, we have to provide people due process and the right to defend themselves, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Fahmy portrayed the military ousting of President Morsy, a democratically elected leader, as a necessary step.
“While we last year elected a president through a democratic process, he did not then govern democratically and wanted to pursue non-inclusive politics,” he said.
Now, Fahmy told Amanpour, Egypt is facing “the result of having to depose two presidents in two-and-a-half years.”
“The challenge, frankly, is not about pleasing the United States or pleasing the West,” he said. “It’s about finding a democratic system that includes all Egyptians.”
“It’s not going to be easy; there will be ups and downs,” he told Amanpour. “What we’re trying to do, almost, is a miracle in comparison to how long and how many stumbles other countries went through before they developed their democracy.”
Since President Morsy was deposed, the leader of Egypt’s armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has emerged as a stronger and stronger leader.
“General al-Sisi gained tremendous support publically because of what happened last July when the former president was deposed,” Fahmy told Amanpour. “And that’s a reflection of the anger the public had about having their rights taken away from them.”
“But the more powerful person,” he said, “and the most powerful lobby if you want, in Egypt today is the Egyptian people – it’s not a person per se.”
But will General al-Sisi run for president when elections are held, as the government has predicted, next summer?
“When we get to that phase, we’ll see what the constitution says; we haven’t even finished that yet. What the election law says; we haven’t done that either,” Fahmy told Amanpour. “So let’s just get to that point and then we’ll see what the population will say after looking at the constitution and the law.”