Kerry Says U.S. to Release $190 Million of Economic Aid to Egypt

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, has been hinting at a major shift on Syria policy by the U.S., which to date has directed only medical supplies and non-lethal equipment such as radios to the opposition and humanitarian aid to non-governmental organizations. Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in his first trip to Egypt in the role, said the U.S. government will release $190 million of its pledged $1 billion in economic aid to the country.

The announcement followed a meeting in Cairo today with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and is part of “a good-faith effort to spur reform and help the Egyptian people at this difficult time,” Kerry said in a statement.

During his visit, Kerry urged Egyptians to respect democratic rights, engage with each other and compromise in order to restore the economy. Kerry’s goal is to encourage Egyptians to tackle changes required for a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

“Over the past couple of days in Egypt, I have listened to a broad cross-section of political leaders, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations,” Kerry said. “The people I met shared their deep concern about the political course of their country, the need to strengthen human rights protections, justice and the rule of law, and their fundamental anxiety about the economic future of Egypt,” he said.

The $190 million is part of a $1 billion package of support pledged by President Barack Obama in May of 2011. That aid was broken into two pieces and included $450 million that had been held up by U.S. Congress out of concern over Egypt’s political developments, according to a U.S. official who was unauthorized to speak on the record.

Kerry came to Egypt with the authority to release the first $190 million of the $450 million in “budget support funds.” The rest would be provided once Egypt qualifies for the IMF loan, the official said.

Today, Kerry also announced $60 million toward the start of the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund, which will fuel “key engines of democratic change in Egypt” by assisting Egyptian entrepreneurs and “its young people.” The fund will rise to $300 million in coming years “as we work with our Congress on funding this and other programs,” Kerry said before traveling to the next stop on his Middle East trip, Saudi Arabia.