Kerry starts Mideast trip in Egypt

John Kerry starts Middle East visit with Egypt first for talks on trade and terrorism

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (R) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a news conference after meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo August 2, 2015

US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Egypt on Saturday to relaunch strategic relations with US longtime ally for talks on trade and terrorism.

Kerry met his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri, during his Cairo visit for a "strategic dialogue" between the allies.

Kerry and Shukri, in a joint press conference, held on Sunday agreed on ensuring the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections be “free, fair and transparent” and that Shukri informed him, the elections would take place in the early fall.

Kerry added, “months leading to election will determine whether Egypt can strike balance between fighting terrorism and human rights.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said a nuclear deal signed between Iran and the six world powers last month would make Egypt and the region safer.

"There can be absolutely no question that the Vienna plan, if implemented, will make Egypt and all the countries of this region safer than they otherwise would be," Kerry said.

Kerry’s Middle East tour, which will end on August 8, will not include a visit to Israel, a fierce critic of Iran’s nuclear deal, signed in Vienna.

US-Egypt relationships have been tumultuous since 2011 in Egypt, where former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled during the Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East and Maghreb in 2011 and raised hopes of democracy.

Following the uprising, Abdel Fattah al Sisi came to office in June 2014, a year after a military coup that was orchestrated by him in July 2013 and overthrew the country’s first democratically-elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi.

In late March, the United States lifted its freeze on the annual military aid of $1.3 billion to Cairo, after a break in 2013.

However, Washington condemned the brutal repression by President Abdel Fattah al Sisi's regime against supporters of the ousted predecessor, Morsi.

The "dialogue" between the two officials is the first, since 2009, and came in the wake of an announcement this week that Washington began the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt.

Kerry and Shukri discussed Washington's human rights "concerns.” Egypt Foreign Minister Shukri said “no one is in prison for journalism in Egypt.”

On Sunday, the Egyptian court announced to postpone the retrial of the Al Jazeera (AJ) journalists for the second time - who have been accused of supporting a militant organisation in the country - to August 29.

"This is an opportunity, really, for the secretary to do a deep dive with the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Countries] foreign ministers to try to respond to any remaining questions that they might have and hopefully to satisfy them and ensure that they're supporting our effort going forward," the State Department official said commenting on Kerry’s visit to Qatar on Monday, according to Reuters.

Gulf states have expressed their concerns earlier about Iran's expanding influence in the region following the nuclear deal with the so-called fine world powers, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The conflicts in Syria and Yemen are also expected to be discussed by Kerry and GCC, according to an official in Washington.

Kerry is expected to be in Qatar on Monday to meet his Gulf counterparts to halt their concerns over the July 14 deal between Iran and six world powers.

The State Department said that Kerry will meet Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of the GCC meetings for discussing a number of issues, including the crisis in Syria and Yemen.

After Doha, Kerry is expected to leave for southeast Asia, where he will visit Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.


TRTWorld and agencies