In public comments surrounding meetings with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and the leaders of an interim military-appointed civilian government, Kerry sought to balance the long-term U.S. commitment to Egypt with what he described as temporary concerns about human and civil rights and the promised return to full civilian rule under an elected government.
“Our hope is that we can make the progress” needed to restore all elements
of a $1.3 billion annual military assistance program, “and then we will march together hand in hand into the future with Egypt playing the vital role it has played traditionally” in the Arab world, Kerry said at a news conference with interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
Fahmy, who last month described U.S.-Egyptian relations as being in a “turbulent” state, was equally effusive in his praise for strong bilateral ties. But he emphasized that Egypt would act “based on our own priorities.”
The July 3 overthrow of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government put the administration in the uncomfortable position of disapproving the undemocratic action but reluctant to undermine ties with a key Arab partner. U.S. relations with Morsi had been stormy, and the administration has pushed for a quick military retreat back to the barracks and a return to full civilian rule.
Egypt’s military and interim government have made progress on implementing a road map in that direction. But in the months since the coup, Egyptian security forces have led the harshest crackdown on political opponents in decades
, throwing thousands behind bars and shooting hundreds of anti-coup protesters in the streets.
More recently, the state has begun to go after secular politicians and activists who had backed the coup but have grown critical.
A senior State Department official traveling with Kerry said the issue of Morsi’s trial on murder charges was not raised in his talks with Sissi or Adly Mansour, the interim president. But Kerry pressed both to be more “inclusive” of those who disagree with them and said “there should be an outreach” to members of the Muslim Brotherhood and others not involved in violence, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door talks.
Kerry also urged them not to extend a military-declared state of emergency due to expire Nov. 14 and stick to plans for a new constitution — due in draft form by Dec. 3 — and early parliamentary and presidential elections.
Sissi, the official said, asked the United States for “patience” while the government navigates the current upheaval.