Cairo: US Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today to press the former military leader to adopt greater democratic reforms.
Fresh from a day-long donors conference in Cairo which raised some USD 5.4 billion in pledges to help the Palestinians and the Gaza Strip, Kerry was to fly later to Paris for further talks on the battle against Islamic militants and on Ukraine.
Washington has suspended part of its USD 1.3 billion in annual aid to Cairo since late last year, until the Egyptian leadership allays fears that it is veering off the path to democracy.
Kerry said in past visits to Cairo that he had had "candid conversations with President Sisi about the challenges that both of our countries face".
Egypt still had to "prove to the world that the country is stable and open to business" as it seeks to restore its economy after years of political upheaval since the ousting of former strong arm leader Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
Kerry told reporters yesterday that US-Egypt ties remained strong as the "government undertakes significant reforms and works towards economic transformation for all Egyptians".
The top US diplomat revealed that US energy giant General Electric might be able to help Egypt improve its power grid.
"We believe there are ways for us to be able to work together," Kerry insisted.
But there are lingering concerns about a crackdown on political dissent in Egypt, amid trials of journalists and the mass sentencing of opposition members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi, as the former military leader, ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, and police have since cracked down on the deposed Islamist's supporters, killing hundreds in clashes and arresting thousands.
And Washington has found itself walking a delicate tightrope in its ties with Cairo, keen to ensure that democracy is nurtured while maintaining relations with a key regional and military ally.
After his talks with Sisi, Kerry will fly to Paris where he will meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
He is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tomorrow, seeking to resolve yet another conflict -- the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Western countries are trying to shore up a September 5 ceasefire deal in Ukraine which has been routinely breached in the country's east by pro-Russian separatist groups.