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Kerry holds first high-level talks in Egypt since military coup

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Cairo on the first highest-level visit by a US official since Egypt’s military coup. Kerry’s visit comes one day before the trial of ousted President Morsi is set to begin.

In the first stop of his latest Mideast tour, Secretary of State Kerry was meeting with the leadership of Egypt's military-installed government on Sunday in an effort to mend the two countries' increasingly strained relations.

During his six-hour stop, Kerry is holding talks with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, President Adly Mansour, and General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

"We are committed to work and we will continue our cooperation with the interim government," Kerry told reporters on Sunday, urging "inclusive, free and fair elections."

Washington has been walking a tight rope in its relations with Cairo ever since el-Sissi forced Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, from office last July. For months, the Obama administration shied away from calling Morsi's ouster a military coup, which would have legally required the US to cancel its substantial aid to the Egyptian military.

But as the military-backed government's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood became increasingly bloody, resulting in hundreds of deaths and arrests, the White House adopted a harder line toward Cairo. On October 9, the Obama administration announced that it would withhold the deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters, and missiles as well as $260 million (192 million euros) in cash.

The US decision has sparked anger among Egypt's new rulers, who have sought to justify their crackdown on Islamists as a fight against terrorism. During his stop in Cairo on Sunday, Kerry played down the significance of military aid, saying that “US-Egyptian relations should not be defined by assistance."

The secretary of state's visit comes during a tense moment in Egypt, with former President Morsi scheduled to go on trial Monday. The Muslim Brotherhood has called for protests outside of the police academy where the trial is set to be held.

slk/tj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)