Egyptian authorities have agreed to return property taken in yesterday’s raids on the offices of U.S. organizations working to promote democracy in the Middle Eastern nation, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
In exchange, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson has agreed to hold talks with Egyptian officials to resolve their concerns over the groups’ operations, Nuland said today. The property will be returned immediately, raids will cease and organizations receiving U.S. government funding will be able to resume normal operations as soon as possible, she said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “expressed his deep concern about the raids” in a telephone call today with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the military council ruling Egypt, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement. Panetta stressed that Egypt must continue its democratic transition, Little said.
“He also conveyed his appreciation for Field Marshal Tantawi’s prompt decision to halt the raids, and to take steps that will make it easier” for the groups to operate in Egypt, Little said. The U.S. “remains committed to the strategic partnership,” he said.
The raids by Egyptian security forces on the offices of three U.S. democracy-promotion organizations and on those of Egyptian groups receiving American aid have exacerbated tensions over recent actions by Tantawi’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, was overthrown in February.
Aid at Risk
U.S. concerns prompted Congress to pass legislation this month conditioning $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt on progress in the transition to democracy. The U.S. provides the aid in exchange for the 1979 Camp David peace accords with Israel.
“We do have a number of new reporting and transparency requirements on funding to Egypt that we have to make to the Congress,” Nuland told reporters yesterday. “The Egyptian government is well aware of that.”
The Egyptian military’s crackdown might force the Obama administration to withhold aid because U.S. officials may not be able to produce the legally-required certification that Egypt is progressing toward civilian rule, said Michele Dunne, a former White House and State Department policy planner and onetime diplomat in Cairo.
‘Building for Months’
“On the orders of the military, the Egyptian government has gone out and done something they never even did under Mubarak,” said Dunne, who is director of the Atlantic Council policy group’s Middle East center. “It’s truly unprecedented, and this is something that’s been building for months.”
Dunne said she had opposed conditions on aid to Egypt in the past. In recent months, she said, she changed her stance as Egyptian authorities escalated their crackdown and their public accusations that foreign-funded groups were fomenting demonstrations.
The locations raided included the Cairo offices of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. The groups conduct training and monitoring and administer other programs to support the development of democratic institutions, such as civic-action groups and political parties.
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