Secretary of State John Kerry held talks on Sunday with new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo over concerns about the country's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and the threat which the conflict in Iraq poses to the Middle East.
Kerry is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Egypt since Sisi, the former military leader who toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi after mass protests last year, won a presidential election in May.
His visit comes a day after an Egyptian court confirmed death sentences against 183 members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, including its leader Mohamed Badie, in a mass trial on charges of violence in which one policeman was killed.
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The Obama administration has said it looks forward to working with Sisi's government but expressed concerns over widespread human rights abuses and limits on freedom of expression.
"This is a critical moment of transition in Egypt (and) enormous challenges," Kerry said before an earlier meeting with Egypt's new foreign minister Sameh Shukri. "There are issues of concern ... but we know how to work at these."
Shukri told his American counterpart that the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt should be based on "mutual respect and joined interests and with no interference in internal affairs," according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
Kerry's visit is part of a broader tour of the Middle East and Europe. Obama said on Friday he would dispatch Kerry to the region for talks on the conflict in Iraq.
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al Qaeda offshoot, has seized swathes of territory in northwest and central Iraq including the city of Mosul. It has taken large amounts of weaponry from fleeing Iraqi troops and looted banks.
Kerry also underscored the severity of the threat posed by Sunni militants to Iraq, the region, and the United States, and the need for Iraqi leaders to form a government not divided along sectarian lines.
Kerry said ISIS is a a threat to "all the countries in the region."
First published June 22 2014, 8:42 AM