John Kerry presses Egypt president, military on reform
Cairo: US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Egypt`s President on Sunday, wrapping up a visit to the deeply divided country with an appeal for unity and reform.
A day after warning the country`s bickering politicians that they must overcome differences to get Egypt`s faltering economy back on track and maintain its leadership role in the volatile Middle East, Kerry conveyed a similar message to President Mohammed Mursi and his defence minister and intelligence chief.
During their two-hour plus meeting, Kerry and Mursi talked about Mideast peace, Syria and Iran, as well as the economic, political and human rights situation in Egypt, according to a US State Department official who was not authorized to discuss the private session and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The US is deeply concerned that continued instability in Egypt will have broader consequences in a region already rocked by unrest.
US officials said earlier that Kerry planned to stress the importance of upholding Egypt`s peace agreement with Israel, cracking down on weapons smuggling to extremists in the Gaza Strip and policing the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula while continuing to play a positive role in Syria`s civil war.
Yet, with parliamentary elections approaching, his call for harmonising domestic Egyptian politics is just as important, they said.
Liberal and secular opponents of Mursi`s Muslim Brotherhood say they will boycott upcoming elections, and violent clashes between protesters and security forces have created an environment of insecurity, complicating Egyptian efforts to secure vital international aid.
After Kerry`s meeting with Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the defence minister, Egypt`s state news agency reported they discussed "means to support military cooperation between the two countries in light of the depth of Egyptian-American relations."
El-Sissi was reported to have expressed his `aspiration for more such cooperation to build and develop the fighting capabilities of the Egyptian armed forces to support security and peace in the region."