Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (Photo: Reuters)
US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta is set to have his first meeting with recently-inaugurated Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday. While in Cairo, Panetta is also expected to meet with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
Panetta arrived in Cairo Tuesday from Tunisia, where he met with the Tunisian president, prime minister and national defence minister in a visit that lasted only a few hours.
On Monday, Panetta said Washington was ready to help Tunisia develop its capacity to "combat Al-Qaeda" and urged closer regional cooperation in fighting the "terror network."
In his visit to Egypt, the US secretary of defence will explore "issues of concern" to both countries, including the Iranian nuclear programme and the Syrian crisis. Furthermore, they will review the impact of these issues on the region's stability and security.
Developments in the relations between Israel and Egypt are also expected to be discussed.
Before arriving to the region, Panetta had said he would explore every option Washington has to offer to support a "democratic transition, development and stability."
The secretary of defence's visit follows on the heels of that of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was in Cairo earlier in July as the first member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet to meet with Morsi since he assumed presidency in late June.
US Defence Secretary Panetta will spend only one day in Cairo, arriving on Tuesday morning and leaving on Tuesday afternoon towards his next stop: Jordan.