‘Intense awareness of interests’ between Egypt and US
CAIRO - US Secretary of State John Kerry launched a strategic dialogue with his Egyptian counterpart in Cairo on Sunday, pledging Washington's support as the two countries patched up a diplomatic rift.
Kerry was to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later before travelling on to Qatar, where he will try to sell a nuclear deal with Iran to sceptical Gulf Arab allies.
Egypt is a key US ally in the region, but ties between the two countries frayed after the army, then led by Sisi, ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
More than 1,000 of Morsi's supporters were killed in a sweeping crackdown on protests, and militants have since killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.
Most of the attacks have been conducted by the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group, which a US-led coalition is battling in Iraq and Syria.
At the televised start of the meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Kerry said his country wanted to support Cairo economically and politically.
"The American people are committed to the security and economic wellbeing of the Egyptian people," he said.
"The friendship between our countries is not based on some kind of perfect agreement, it's based on intense awareness of our shared interests in areas of regional security and counterterrorism," he added.
Kerry's visit comes days after Washington released its first delivery of F-16 jets to Egypt since it unblocked military aid in March frozen since the army's ouster of Morsi.
The United States has again grown supportive of Egypt, long a key Middle East ally, as Sisi battles the Islamic State group insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.
"One of the key decision points of why we decided to move forward was our estimate that the Egyptians were facing a very serious threat from ISIL-affiliated organisations in the Sinai and that we needed to help them " a State Department official said ahead of Kerry's visit, using another acronym for IS.
However Washington has remained critical of Egypt's human rights record.
"We'll certainly be discussing the issue of the political environment, human rights issues while the secretary is in Cairo," the official said.
Kerry's trip, which ends on August 8, will not include Israel, one of Washington's closest allies, which has been a fierce critic of the July 14 nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran.
In Doha, Kerry will meet his counterparts from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.
He will seek to allay their fears about Shiite Iran, following the nuclear deal signed in Vienna.
"This is an opportunity, really, for the secretary to do a deep dive with the GCC foreign ministers to try to respond to any remaining questions that they might have and hopefully to satisfy them and ensure that they're supporting our effort going forward," the State Department official said.
Many Gulf Arab states have said they are concerned about Iran's ambitions in the region following the pact with the United States and five other world powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.