CAIRO – On the eve of the trial of Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt Sunday for his first talks here with the military-backed government that overthrew Morsi.
Security was extremely tight for the visit, which was not announced in advance by the State Department. However, Egyptian state media had reported that Kerry would stop in Cairo as he began a visit to the region.
Relations between the United States and Egypt have been frosty since the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president. The Obama administration has been critical of the subsequent crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, including the breakup of pro-Morsi protest camps by security forces in mid-August. About 1,000 people were killed in that outburst of violence.
Egypt's foreign minister has spoken openly of Egypt's intention to court other allies as relations with the U.S. have cooled. Last month, the Obama administration curtailed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Egypt's powerful military, although Egypt remains one of the biggest recipients of American foreign assistance.
Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty warned that Egypt would not tolerate meddling in what it considers its internal affairs -- an apparent message to Kerry that the interim government had no wish to be pressured to ease its crackdown on the Brotherhood and move more quickly to a democratic transition.
Kerry was last in Egypt in March, when Morsi was still in power.
Cairo was the secretary of state's first stop on a nine-day visit to the Middle East and Europe. Much of the trip is centered on mending ties with regional allies in the wake of a series of sharp disagreements over U.S. policy on matters including Syria and Iran.
Kerry is also to visit Saudi Arabia, Poland, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Morocco.