Kerry ‘confident’ Egypt will receive Apache gunships

The U.S. has quietly sent around $572m in aid to Egypt some 10 days ago after Congress finally approved its release

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday during a surprise visit to Cairo that he was “confident” Egypt would receive Apache gunships soon.

Kerry became the highest-ranking American official to visit Egypt since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power after his landslide election victory in May.

“The Apaches will come and they will come very, very soon,” Kerry said at a joint news conference with newly-appointed Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, Agence France-Presse reported.

U.S. officials have said that $572 million of US aid, which had been frozen since October, was released to the Cairo government about 10 days ago after finally winning a green light from Congress.

The funds will mainly go to pay existing defense contracts.

US officials announced in April they planned to resume some of the annual $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Cairo, including 10 Apache helicopter gunships for counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula.

But the aircraft remain in storage in the US, an official had confirmed Sunday.

The top U.S. diplomat also urged the Egyptian government to uphold press freedoms the eve of a verdict in the trial of al-Jazeera journalists.

Earlier, Kerry that Egypt was facing a "critical moment" in its transition to democracy.

"Obviously this is a critical moment of transition in Egypt, enormous challenges," Kerry said as he met new Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, reported AFP.

He was also due to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and vowed "the U.S. is very interested in working closely" with the new government "in order to make this transition as rapidly and smoothly as possible."

Kerry was expected to press the former army chief to address fears of a crackdown on dissent, warning Washington was concerned about Cairo's "polarizing tactics."

A government crackdown has left more than 1,400 people dead and seen at least 15,000 jailed since the military ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July 2013.

Meanwhile, American officials said on Sunday that the United States quietly sent around $572 million in aid to Egypt some 10 days ago after Congress finally approved its release.

The funds are the first tranche of some $1.5 billion in mostly military aid which has been frozen since October amid U.S. administration demands that the Egyptian government introduce democratic reforms. Ten Apache helicopters, which have also been approved for release, remain in storage however.

(With AFP)

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