US, Egypt Return to “Stronger Base”

US, Egypt Return to “Stronger Base”US, Egypt Return to “Stronger Base”

The United States and Egypt are returning to a “stronger base” in bilateral ties despite tensions and human rights concerns, US 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, Reuters reported.

“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.”

US-Egyptian relations cooled after the country’s first freely-elected president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013 by the military.

However, 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 later met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and a senior US State Department official said he stressed “the importance of press freedom and the protection of peaceful dissent, stressing that free participation in the political process is essential to help stem the growth of violent extremism.”

Cairo and Washington have been exploring ways to expand their security relationship. In late March, US President Barack Obama lifted a hold on supplying arms to Cairo, authorizing deliveries valued at over $1.3 billion.

Kerry arrived in Qatar on Monday to discuss the fight against IS with other Arab leaders and seek to reassure them about the Iran nuclear deal.