Egypt, U.S. to hold ‘strategic dialogue’ in July

Thursday’s statement comes three days after Egypt said it had taken delivery of two more U.S. fast missile boats

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Egypt and the United States will hold a "strategic dialogue" in July, the presidency announced Thursday, amid a growing rapprochement in ties strained after the army ousted president Mohamed Morsi two years ago.

Following the overthrow of Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Washington froze $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo.

While it resumed the assistance in March, it has continued to denounce the repression of Morsi’s Islamist supporters and what it says are human rights violations.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to discuss holding a "strategic dialogue" between the two countries on July 28-29, Sisi’s office said.

The president welcomed that, saying he "expected the results to enrich the strategic relations between the two countries in different fields," a statement said.

Kerry was also keen to discuss new ideas with Sisi "to push peace efforts in the Middle East," the statement added.

He stressed "the pivotal role of Egypt in the Middle East and its deep expertise regarding the efforts to settle" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thursday’s statement comes three days after Egypt said it had taken delivery of two more US fast missile boats.

Egypt has been battling jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, and Washington has backed its efforts.

It has also voiced growing concern about the jihadist presence in its eastern neighbour Libya where IS has exploited a power struggle between rival governments to launch increasingly grisly attacks.

In February, Egypt carried out air strikes inside Libya targeting IS positions after the group posted a video showing the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, all but one of them Egyptians.

Sisi has repeatedly called for a joint Arab military force to fight jihadists in the region, and at an Arab League summit in March, regional leaders agreed to establish such a force.

The details of the joint Arab force have yet to be worked out.