CHILMARK, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama will make his first statement on the rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt Thursday morning, interrupting his weeklong vacation to address the spiraling violence that has left more than 500 people dead.
Administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have condemned the clashes between Egypt's military-backed interim government and supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. But the U.S. has thus far avoided any shifts in its policy toward Egypt, with officials continuing to refrain from calling Morsi's ouster a coup. Taking that step would require the U.S. to cut off $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt.
However, officials are considering scrapping joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises scheduled for next month. The Bright Star exercise has been a centerpiece of the two countries' military relations for decades.
More than 500 people have died in Egypt since Wednesday in clashes between the military-backed interim government and Morsi's supporters. The violence prompted the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency and a nighttime curfew.
Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-reform leader in the interim government, also resigned Wednesday in protest over the assaults as the military-backed leadership imposed a monthlong state of emergency and nighttime curfew.
With Obama on vacation, Kerry handled the administration's initial response Wednesday, declaring the violence "deplorable."
"It's a serious blow to reconciliation and the Egyptian people's hopes for a transition toward democracy and inclusion," he told reporters during a surprise appearance at the White House.
It's unclear whether canceling the Bright Star military exercise or taking other similar punitive actions would push Egypt's interim government to end its crackdown on Morsi supporters.
Bright Star usually is held every other year, but the 2011 maneuvers were canceled following the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in January. This year's exercise is tentatively planned to begin in mid-September.
Pace reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Robert Burns contributed to this report.