John Kerry expressed optimism for Egypt’s return to democracy a day before the country’s deposed president, Mohammed Morsi, goes on trial. However, the US Secretary of State was still cautious about the country’s return from military control.
Kerry made his comments during a tour aimed in part at easing tensions with Arab powers. During his first visit since the army removed Morsi in July, the Secretary of State called for fair, transparent trials for all citizens.
Reuters reports that Kerry also tried to repair relations hurt by a partial freeze in US foreign aid to the country. He added that the relationship between the two countries shouldn’t be defined by aid, but by a partnership instead.
Senior State Department officials stated that Kerry didn’t raise Morsi’s trial during his meetings in Egypt. However, he did stress that politically motivated and arbitrary arrests should be avoided and are unacceptable to the United States.
The US Secretary of State made an unannounced stop in Cairo at the beginning of his trip, which will last 11 days and take him through the Middle East and North Africa. He is the most senior US official to visit the country since Morsi was ousted, notes The Washington Post.
In public comments about meetings with Egyptian military leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and other leaders of an interim military-appointed civilian government, Kerry stated that the US’ “hope is that we can make the progress” needed to restore all aid to Egypt.
The Egyptian military and interim government made progress to implement a road map toward democracy after the ouster of Morsi. However, the interim government still cracked down on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. Kerry reiterated that the decision to freeze aid wasn’t punishment. He explained, “We knew that in some places obviously that wouldn’t be well received, but it’s not a punishment.”
Egypt has long been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid, behind Israel. However, the US decided to freeze $260 million in cash and some military aid, pending progress on democracy and human rights.