US and Egyptian Defense Ministers discuss regional security issues
Minister of Defense General Officer Sedky Sobhy - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: Minister of Defense General Officer Sedky Sobhy and his U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel spoke over the phone on Sunday and discussed bilateral relations and regional security issues, Military Spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Ali said on his Facebook page on Monday.

The call is considered the first conversation between the two senior army leaders since the appointment of Sobhy as the Minister of Defense on March 26, replacing Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi who resigned to run for Egypt’s upcoming presidential bid.

“Secretary Hagel congratulated Gen.Sobhy on his promotion and expressed his desire to maintain close contact as the general settles into his duties,” said a Sunday statement by John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

The topics they have discussed in the 20 minutes call included, “the ongoing threat of terrorist networks, as well as the importance of free and fair elections for Egypt’s political transition,” said Kirby.

During the phone call, the pair reaffirmed their commitment to strong U.S.-Egypt ties, said Kirby.

Since the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and the vague stance of the US administration in the first days of the revolution prior to the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt-US relations have witnessed several disturbances.

Under allegations of illegal funding from abroad, in Dec. 29, 2011, Egyptian authorities raided several offices of local and foreign NGOs, some of which are U.S.-based.

The US administration described the action as an attack on democratic values and threatened to stop the annual US military and economic aid to Egypt, worth U.S. $1.55 bn. However, the threat was dismissed by the Egyptian government and several political powers.

Further, following the forceful dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in August 2013, President Obama suspended U.S. participation in the bi-annual joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercise known as Bright Star, in protest of the dispersal.

In October, Obama decided to suspend U.S. military aid to Egypt.

Egypt’s Minister of Industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour met on Sunday with Dan Mullaney, the U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East, to discuss ways to boost joint economic cooperation.

“Egypt seeks to open a new page of bilateral economic relations with the U.S. and address mutual interests between the two countries,” said Abdel Nour.

Egypt represents an important trading axis for the American exports to Africa, the Middle East and Europe, said Mullaney, who expressed the U.S. interest in boosting trade and investment with Egypt in the coming period.

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