Obama Breaks Silence on Egypt in Speech, as 638 Killed
The White House streamed an audio-only speech from President Obama on the Egyptian crisis Thursday morning. Violence and unrest in the country spun out of control in the last 24 hours, with at least 638 reported dead since Wednesday in clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and the military. The clip was recorded in Martha's Vineyard, where Obama has been vacationing with his family.
"The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces," Obama said. The president was not eager to choose sides, however, making clear that he equally condemns any violence committed by the protesters. If these conditions persist, Obama explained, "our traditional cooperation cannot continue."
President Obama did not offer much as far as concrete actions the United States is willing to take, except to say that he had notified Egypt's interim government this morning that he would be canceling the two countries' bi-annual joint military exercise scheduled to take place next week. His national security team is apparently working to "assess" further steps that might be taken.
Obama expressed hope that Egypt would be able to make a democratic transition, though he also conceded that this kind of change can take "generations." In order for the country to get back on its feet, he said, they would have to make a renewed commitment to "nonviolence, respect for universal rights, and a process for economic and political reform." Obama made clear that determining the future of Egypt is "a task for the people of Egypt."