President Barack Obama makes a statement to the media regarding events in Egypt, from his rental vacation home in Chilmark Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. The president announced that the US is canceling joint military exercise with Egypt amid violence. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(USA TODAY) -- President
Obama said Thursday his government "strongly condemns" violence in
Egypt, and as a result is canceling U.S.-Egyptian military exercises
scheduled for next month.
"We do not believe force is the way to resolve political
differences," Obama said in a statement to reporters from his vacation
home in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
Obama did not announce any suspension of other forms of aid to Egypt,
saying U.S. "engagement" with the military government in Cairo will
help it transition back to democracy.
The president also did not
describe the military's removal of President Mohammed Morsi as "a coup,"
a declaration that would required ending aid that adds up to about $1.3
billion a year.
The U.S. and Egypt did have joint military
maneuvers known as "Bright Star" scheduled for mid-September, but Obama
said they cannot go on given the violence that has claimed at least 500
lives and probably hundreds more.
Obama called on the interim
government to fulfill its pledge to conduct new elections as soon as
possible, and restore a democratic government.
The president spoke a day after Egypt's interim used force to clear encampments created by backers of the ousted Morsi.
action triggered violent clashes throughout the country. The interim
government has declared a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime
Obama, who is on a week-long vacation on Martha's Vineyard, is scheduled to return to the White House on Sunday.
The two sides in Egypt are offering vastly different estimates of the death toll.
interim government in Cairo says more than 500 have died in the violence; the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that includes Morsi,
puts the death count at more than 2,500.
Bright Star has been held
every two years, though the 2011 exercises were canceled because of
that year's removal of President Hosni Mubarak.
In his brief
remarks to reporters, Obama made clear he does not want to cut ties to
Egypt, saying is relationship with the United States "goes back
decades." The United States has long seen Egypt as a bulwark of
stability in the Middle East, and treasures its peace treaty with
Obama applauded the desire of the Egyptian people for
freedom and democracy after the fall of Mubarak, and said he has long
known that change would not come "quickly or easily."
The United States also appreciates "the complexity" of the current situation in Egypt, Obama said.
Morsi government, while democratically elected, did not prove to be
"inclusive" and seemed poised to threaten hard won freedoms, Obama said.
But the military action that removed him from power in early July was