US congressional minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday dismissed a row with Egypt over the trial of American democracy activists as a road bump in strong bilateral ties, as she visited Cairo.
The Democrat former speaker led a house delegation that met military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and parliamentarians, after Egypt defused a crisis with the US by allowing the NGO activists to leave the country.
“(The) NGO issue issue is a bump in the road. We have a lot in common with the Egyptian people in furtherance, again, of their success,” she told a news conference.
“Whatever the NGO issue was, it should not be a barrier to future possibilities between our two countries,” she said.
Before the activists left the country on March 1, Washington had hinted that trying the activists could jeopardise its more than one billion dollars in annual aid to Egypt, much of it to the military.
Pelosi said her government would continue to back the Middle East ally, which started receiving the aid after it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
“The interest of Egypt and surrounding area as well as the United States is well served by a strong and stable Egypt. To the extent that that assistance is in furtherance of that stability, we will certainly be there,” she said.
“However, we want to be there in a way that is directly beneficial to the Egyptian people and that they are aware of our friendship,” she added.
Relations between the countries were at their lowest ebb in decades as Egypt charged staff of the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Freedom House NGOs.
The groups, which are funded largely by the US government, promote the development of democratic institutions around the world and say that they do not back any particular candidates.
After pressure from Washington, Egypt allowed 13 foreigners from the groups, including six Americans, to leave the country after judges recused themselves. One American, Robert Becker, chose to stay in Egypt to face the charges.