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US seeks to thaw Egypt relations
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 06 - 2014

CAIRO — The United States, seizing on Egypt's weak economy and shaky security, is seeking to convince its new president to embrace more moderate policies to achieve stability — and deliver more American aid.
In the few weeks since President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi officially took office, US officials say they have seen some small encouraging signs that he is prepared to protect his people's rights, including issuing severe penalties for sexual assault against women and freeing a jailed journalist.
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Sunday to meet El-Sissi in the highest-level American visit since the new president took office this month after winning election in May.
“Obviously this is a critical moment of transition in Egypt, enormous challenges,” Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Kerry said the US hopes to work closely with El-Sissi despite what he called “issues of concern.”
Shoukry said he looked forward to a “fruitful discussion.”
US officials say they now see an opportunity to guide Egypt toward a more inclusive government that Washington believes will help stabilize the country by curbing the violence and, in turn, attracting tourists to boost its economy.
Kerry's visit signals an attempt by the US to thaw its decades-long relationship with Egypt, which has bristled at the American criticism and refusal to release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that Cairo has come to depend on over the years.
Earlier this month, the US quietly agreed to send an estimated $572 million to Cairo in military and security assistance on top of $200 million in economic aid that was already delivered. But Egypt is still calling for the US to send the rest of its annual $1.5 billion in aid, most of it for the military, which has been suspended until Washington believes Cairo is committed to democracy.
A State Department official said the security threat and the economic downturn have prompted Egyptians to re-think the direction their country is headed.
Kerry plans to stay in Cairo for only a few hours before heading to Amman, Jordan, where he will meet with government leaders there to discuss the bloody insurgency and political crisis in neighboring Iraq.
While in Cairo, Kerry also plans to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby and leaders of Egypt's civil rights group. – AP


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