Egypt and U.S. ‘moving back to strong base’

Kerry also said he had discussed with Egyptian officials 'increased border cooperation' with respect to Libya

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the United States and Egypt were moving back to a "strong base" in their relationship despite tensions and concerns on human rights.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told a joint news conference with Kerry in Cairo that his country had no "major disagreements" with the United States but there were "differences in points of view over some issues, which is natural."

Kerry meanwhile said that military and economic cooperation between both countries was strengthening, expressing appreciation for Egypt’s help in "expediting U.S. overflights and access to Suez Canal in support of counter-terror operations.”

Kerry also said he had discussed with Egyptian officials "increased border cooperation" with respect to Libya.

Egypt and Libya share a long, porous border and ISIS militants have exploited a security vacuum to gain a foothold in Libya, a North African oil producer.

Shukri said he discussed democracy and human rights with Kerry during the first strategic dialogue between the two countries since 2009.

"During the dialogue we discussed our shared interest in issues relating to democracy and human rights and I affirmed Egypt's commitment to paying attention to these issues as they fulfill the aspirations of the Egyptian people," Shukri said.

Kerry added that he agreed with Shukri on the importance that upcoming parliamentary elections be "free, fair, and transparent" and that Shukri told him they would take place in the early fall.

On the topic of the Iranian nuclear deal, Kerry said the agreement signed between Iran and world powers last month would make Egypt and the region safer.

"There can be absolutely no question that the Vienna plan, if implemented, will make Egypt and all the countries of this region safer than they otherwise would be," Kerry said.

"The United States and Egypt recognize that Iran is engaged in destabilizing activities in the region -- and that is why it is so important to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains wholly peaceful," he added.

Despite Washington's concerns about Egypt's lagging democratic reforms, Cairo remains one of its closest security allies in the Middle East, an increasingly crucial role amid unprecedented turmoil in the region.

While Washington has prized the former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Mursi's overthrow and was later elected to succeed him, for the stability he has brought to Egypt, it has also cautiously criticized Egypt's human rights record and a crackdown on Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, a now outlawed group.

U.S. officials say they want to see Egypt regain its economic growth and its political situation stabilize.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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