US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged economical and political support to Egypt as the two countries resumed a strategic dialogue after six years. Kerry was to meet President el-Sissi before heading to Doha.
John Kerry opened the security talks on Sunday in a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri, in Cairo. The dialogue is the first between the two countries since 2009, and comes days after the United States announced that it would begin the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to the Middle Eastern country.
Ties between Washington and Cairo have been tumultuous since the popular revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The relations between the two countries have begun to improve somewhat, with Washington lifting sanctions on military aid for Egypt in March.
"The American people are committed to the security and economic wellbeing of the Egyptian people," Kerry said, who began his Middle East tour on Saturday. "The friendship between our countries is not based on some kind of perfect agreement, it's based on intense awareness of our shared interests in areas of regional security and counter-terrorism," he added.
Security challenges in the region
US officials say they are concerned about the expansion of the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The resumption of security talks with Egypt, they say, was the need of the hour.
"One of the key decision points of why we decided to move forward was our estimate that the Egyptians were facing a very serious threat from ISIL-affiliated organizations in the Sinai and that we needed to help them," a State Department official told the AFP news agency, using another acronym for IS.
However, the officials say, the US will continue to press Egypt on human rights issues.
"We'll certainly be discussing the issue of the political environment, human rights issues while the Secretary is in Cairo. That is an important part of our regular dialogue," the official said.
The United States has been particularly critical of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's repression of the supporters of his Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court once again postponed the trial against three Al-Jazeera journalists accused of "spreading false news" in support of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party during their coverage of the demonstrations after the Egyptian army ousted the former president in 2013.
Concerns about Iran
Kerry's next Middle East stop is in Doha where he will attend a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and try to allay fears among the US's Arab allies about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which was sealed on July 14 in Vienna.
Many Gulf states are weary about Iran's growing closeness with the United States.
The GCC foreign ministers and Kerry will also discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. The US State Department confirmed that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on the GCC sidelines.
Kerry, whose Middle East visit does not include a stop in Israel, will leave for Southeast Asia from Doha.
shs/ng (AFP, AP)