The United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Wednesday to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional tensions during a short visit in Cairo.
Secretary Kerry stressed the importance of Egypt for sustainable peace and stability in the Middle East, according to a statement issued by the State Department.
“I want to emphasize that the United States views Egypt as critical to the peace and security of the entire region,” he said.
Pointing to the “difficult challenges” that Egypt is facing in terms of threats to its security from extremist groups, he underscored the US’ commitment and desire to help Egypt deal with these challenges, particularly threats from groups such as the Islamic State.
“We are deeply committed to the stability of Egypt and to helping Egypt through the difficult challenges that it faces, which, by the way, it doesn’t face alone in the world,” Kerry continued.
On the issue of Egypt’s struggling economy, the Secretary said that his country wants to cooperate with Egypt to attract investments, create jobs and increase growth. He vowed to return to Cairo with ideas about how to achieve these goals.
For his part, President Sisi was quoted by presidential spokesperson Alaa Yousef as saying that Egypt wants to improve bilateral ties with the US “on all levels” while stressing the importance of joint cooperation and coordination to face the challenges the “tumultuous” Middle East is facing at the moment.
During the meeting, the representatives of the two countries also discussed the volatile situations in Syria and Libya.
Kerry also said that he wants to overcome some of the difficulties the two countries have experienced lately.
“And we also talked about ways in which we can hopefully resolve some of the differences and questions that have arisen about the internal politics and choices for the people of Egypt,” he said, in apparent reference to Egypt’s worsening human rights situation which has drawn criticism from the American administration and triggered a debate about the economic assistance provided by Washington to Egypt.
In remarks made in March, Kerry said he was “deeply concerned by the deterioration in the human rights situation in Egypt.”
Foreign Minister Shoukry responded harshly to the Secretary’s comments, saying that Egypt rejects any interference by foreign countries in its internal affairs.
After Wednesday’s meeting, however, Shoukry seemed more sanguine, saying the discussions with Kerry were “cordial and productive” and “addressed both of our desires to put this relationship on an upward trajectory.”