CAIRO: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo Saturday—the first visit paid by a high U.S. official since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s inauguration on June 8—to discuss bilateral relations and international issues.
The United States is very interested in cooperation with the new government of Egypt, Kerry said after his meeting with Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, Sky News Arabia reported.
“Obviously this is a critical moment of transition in Egypt, enormous challenges,” AFP quoted Kerry as saying. Shoukry affirmed the significance of bilateral relations based on mutual respect, common interests and non-interference in interior affairs, Youm7 reported.
Kerry, on the first day of a planned six-day Middle East trip, is in Egypt to discuss Middle East security challenges, according to a press statement issued from the U.S. State Department Saturday.
“Secretary Kerry traveled to Cairo, Egypt to meet with senior government officials and reaffirm our strong partnership. The Secretary will discuss a variety of issues covering our bilateral relationship as well as regional issues, including Iraq, Syria, Libya, Israeli-Palestinian relations, and the extremist and terror threats we all face,” the statement read.
Kerry will meet Sisi and then have a meeting with Arab League head Nabil Elaraby, according to remarks from an unnamed senior state department official Saturday. However, before his meeting with Sisi, Kerry will meet representatives from different political groups, Youm7 reported.
“There’s a strong desire on the part of the United States for this transition to succeed. Egypt is a strategic partner and we have a longstanding relationship with Egypt. It’s a partnership that’s based on shared interest, strategic interest,” the official said.
As for suspended U.S. aid, the official said that state department officials are in talks with the U.S. Congress to release the aid saying, “We are doing what we can to provide assistance to Egypt.”
Since former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster on July 3, U.S.-Egyptian relations have been strained, especially after the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins. The U.S. withheld significant military aid, including $260 million, F-16 aircraft, M1A1 tank parts, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and Apache helicopters, protesting the forceful dispersal of the pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, CNN reported on Oct. 9, 2013.
The withholding of the aid pushed Egypt to turn to Russia as a new potential ally, by improving bilateral relations and signing military deals with Moscow.
Although the U.S. did not officially label Morsi’s ouster a military coup, Senator John McCain referred to it as such during a visit accompanied by Senator Lindsey Graham in August 2013. The statement provoked anger in Egypt.
Moreover, since former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson was promoted to assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, a new ambassador to Cairo has yet to be appointed. Marc J. Sievers assumed the duties of chargé d’affaires in Cairo on Jan. 21.