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Iran nuclear deal will make Egypt, region safer: Kerry

Ahram Online , Sunday 2 Aug 2015
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (R) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a news conference after meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo August 2, 2015 (Reuters)
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There is "no question" the Iran nuclear deal, if implemented, will make the Middle East safer, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday when asked about steps taken by the US to curb international terrorism.

"There can be absolutely no question that if the Vienna plan is fully implemented, it will make Egypt and all the countries of this region safer than they otherwise would be or were," Kerry told a joint press conference in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri.

Both men met in Cairo ahead of the conference. Kerry will also meet with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi later in the day.

"The United States and Egypt recognise that Iran is engaged in destabilising activities in the region -- and that is why it is so important to ensure that Iran's nuclear programme remains wholly peaceful," Kerry said.

"If Iran is destabilising, it is far, far better to have an Iran that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon than one that does."

On the bilateral ties between Egypt and the US, Kerry said both countries were moving back to a "strong base" in their relationship despite tensions and concerns on human rights.

Shoukri told the conference Egypt had no "major disagreements" with the United States but there were "differences in points of view on some issues, which is natural."

Shoukri said he has agreed with US convoys to hold the strategic dialogue every two years.

The meetings that took place ahead of the conference were scheduled to take place over two days. However, due to last minute changes, the ‎dialogue has been shortened to just one day.

Some of the meetings that were supposed to take place between the US delegation and representatives ‎of the Egyptian private sector in the Egyptian-US Chamber of Commerce were canceled accordingly.

The US delegation includes, among others, Charles Rivkin, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, and David Thorne, Kerry's senior advisor.

‎‎Meetings were set to be held between businessmen from both sides, but not as part of the official dialogue, ‎an official source told Ahram Online.‎

At the start of the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue earlier Sunday, Kerry said the US "welcomes" Egyptian President El-Sisi's "steps to improve economic conditions."

In a morning press conference, Kerry expressed the United States’ support for Egypt's economy, saying the US is ready to work with Egypt to "attract more capital.”

In an effort to boost the economy and improve infrastructure, Egypt has been seeking to attract foreign investment since El-Sisi assumed office.

Shoukri said that Cairo looks forward to "close cooperation" on the military front which, he said, will help achieve security and enhance economic opportunities for investors.

Egypt and the US have maintained a decades-long strategic political and military relationship since 1979, which marked the signing of the peace treaty with Israel. The US provides Cairo with $1.3 billion in military aid annually.

However, US-Egyptian relations became tense when the US maintained a critical position towards the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

In October 2013, the United States announced the suspension of parts of its annual military aid to Egypt in protest of the government's crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters following Morsi's ouster.

But last March, the Obama administration resumed US aid despite its continuing criticism and "concerns" over Egypt's human rights record.

On 11 June, the US House of Representatives agreed on the budget for the 2016 fiscal year. No changes were made to the amount of military aid to Egypt.

The US sent eight F-16 fighter jets to Cairo on Friday and will send four more this fall as part of the military aid.
 

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