US and Egypt resume strategic dialogue after 6-year break

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry met Sunday with Egyptian officials in Cairo as part of a Mideast trip aimed at assuaging concerns over the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Advertisement

Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012, when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“But there is a fact, that if Iran is a problem, the nuclear weapons disarmament will improve security in the region”, he said, adding that Iran has chosen to abide by the deal.

But with the rise of extremism in the region, led by ISIL, and the US forming a global coalition to fight the group, the Obama administration decided to re-engage with president Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s government and focus on shared security interests. The Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab states fear Shiite Iran’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

He furthered that the strategic relations between Egypt and the US are based on opportunities and not threats, Kerry said, stating that with Egypt gaining more power, reinforcement of the cooperation spheres would become a pressing matter.

“Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities in the region — and that is why it is so important to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains wholly peaceful”, he told reporters at news conference with Egypt’s foreign minister. U.S. officials said those concerns would be raised at all of Kerry’s meetings in Cairo and noted that the State Department’s top diplomat for human rights and democracy would be accompanying him.

Some lawmakers and quite a few advocacy teams are urging Kerry to boost human rights points with Egyptian authorities, together with the arrests of dissidents and journalists, mass trials, and sentencings of Morsi supporters.

That aid had been on hold until earlier this year due to human rights and democracy concerns in the wake of the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

As one sign of the shifting U.S. approach, Kerry said the two nations “are moving back” to conducting military exercises and training.

Following Mursi’s ouster, Cairo cracked down on the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Both Obama and Defense Secretary Ash Carter have discussed the Iran nuclear deal with Saudi Foreign Minister Abel al-Jubeir in July.

Analysts say Kerry faces the challenge of supporting Egypt’s ongoing push against Islamic State-linked extremists, while showing disapproval for Cairo’s harsh government policies toward human rights activists, journalists and the political opposition.

Saudi Arabia is the largest and most influential member of the GCC and has been publicly supportive of the Iran deal, albeit with reservations.

On the sidelines of the GCC meetings, Kerry is set to meet Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov on a number of issues, including the crisis in Syria, the State Department said.

Advertisement

The US and Egypt on Sunday resumed security dialogue after a break of six years with Secretary of State John Kerry saying that bilateral ties will witness strong security and economic cooperation between the two strategic partners amid rising militancy in the Islamic nation.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter meets with Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdul Aziz at Al Salam Palace in Jiddah Saudi Arabia on July 22. Carter came to consult with Saudi leaders who are also unsettled by an Iran accord they see as likely to increase