Kerry says United States, Egypt return to 'stronger base' in ties

CAIRO | By David Brunnstrom

CAIRO The United States and Egypt are returning to a "stronger base" in bilateral ties despite tensions and human rights concerns, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday after talks with his Egyptian counterpart.

"Egypt remains vital ... to engagement and stability in the region as a whole," said Kerry, who held the first bilateral strategic dialogue since 2009.

"There are obviously circumstances where we have found reason to have grave concern and we have expressed it very publicly," he said at a news conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri. "But we have multiple issues that we need to work on simultaneously."

U.S.-Egyptian relations cooled after Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was ousted in 2013 by the military amid mass protests against his rule.

Cairo remains one of Washington's closest allies in the Middle East, an increasingly crucial role in a region beset by turmoil in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.

Kerry also lobbied for last month's nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, which has been met with scepticism by Washington's Arab allies.

"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," he said.

Kerry said Iran's role as the "number one state sponsor of terror in the world" made the deal even more important. "If Iran is destabilising, it is far, far better to have an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon than one that does," he said.


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