US Secretary of State John Kerry has told Egyptian authorities their country is on the "frontline of the fight against terrorism." Kerry is in Cairo to seek support for a coalition to fight "Islamic State" jihadists.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday held talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, as well as meeting the head of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby.
"Egypt is on the frontline of the fight against terrorism, particularly when it comes to fighting extremist groups in Sinai," Kerry told a Cairo news conference alongside Shoukry, referring to the Sinai Peninsula, where militant groups battling Egyptian forces have expressed support for the ultraconservative Islamist "Islamic State" (IS) organization, which has seized large areas of northern Iraq and Syria.
Shoukry said regional militant groups in Egypt had to be dealt with and that the international community was an international responsibility.
"Ultimately this extremist ideology is shared by all terrorist groups. We detect ties of cooperation between them and see a danger as it crosses borders."
Kerry visited Egypt to gain support for a broad coalition of countries to fight IS. He had already secured the backing of 10 Arab governments, including Egypt, alongside Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The role each nation would play was unclear.
Egypt is the most populous country in the Arab world and it is home to revered and moderate religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar University. The US would like to see the country send a message of moderation across the Middle East.
"As an intellectual and cultural capital in the Muslim world, Egypt has a critical role to play in publicly denouncing the ideology that ISIL disseminates," Kerry said, referring to the group by its former name, an acronym for "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant."
'Frank' human rights discussion
Relations between the US and Egypt were tested last year following the ouster by Egypt's military of democratically-elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, following mass protests against his rule. For a time, Washington suspended military aid to Egypt.
The ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood to which Morsi belonged has resulted in deadly clashes, mass trials, death sentences and the jailing of dissidents. In June, three Al Jazeera journalists were handed lengthy jail sentences - a move which drew widespread international condemnation.
Kerry addressed human rights issues with President al-Sissi, Shoukry and others, in a "frank discussion about concerns that have been expressed."
However, "the United States doesn't ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objectives," the US secretary of state told reporters on Saturday.
se/sb (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)