Kerry's message in Cairo

Dina Ezzat , Sunday 3 Nov 2013

US Secretary of State comes to town with a mixed bag of apprehension and reassurances in first visit since Morsi's ouster

Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands with Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy at their news conference in Cairo, November 3, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with top Egypt officials to convey Washington's "deep concern" about the transitional period and to offer the US's goodwill should developments move "on the right track," according to Western diplomats.

It is Kerry's first visit to Cairo since the ouster of elected president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July following mass protests against his rule.

Across Cairo's official quarters, Kerry's visit is widely perceived as representing tacit approval of the Muslim Brotherhoods "irreversible end."

According to one high-level Egyptian official, "some regional capitals – to be frank, Ankara and Doha – assessed that Morsi's removal could be reversed by Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations if backed by external support." 

"Now, it has become clear that despite the admitted opposition to Morsi's removal, a larger segment of Egypt's society is not willing to have the Muslim Brotherhood back."

"The fact that Kerry has decided to stop in Cairo, even if for only a very few hours, after he has repeatedly ignored Egypt during his Middle East visits, is a clear indication that Morsi's chapter has been closed once and for all," he added.

Kerry's visit came less than 24 hours before Morsi is due in court to face charges of incitement to murder during the 2012 Ittihadiya presidential palace clashes.

Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atti said that the visit is not related to Morsi's trial, as some have speculated. "The trip was due to take place later in the course of Kerry's regional tour, but it was adjusted to line up with foreign minister Nabil Fahmy's schedule," Abdel-Atti said.

Kerry will be meeting with Fahmy, army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and Interim President Adly Mansour.

Sources say the top-level US diplomat is expected to be accommodating, especially during his meeting with Mansour, who gave a cold shoulder to US President Barack Obama's Eid Al-Adha greetings.

"It is not business as usual in terms of our relations with the US, but let me be very precise: we have problems, but we are not giving up on each other. There is too much at stake for both sides. This is the official line of both the foreign ministry and the defence ministry," an Egyptian diplomatic source clarified.

That said, Cairo expects Kerry to share Washington's apprehension over freedom and human rights violations during the transitional period. The US has directly shared such concerns, namely with regards to police violations against Islamist demonstrations, in calls between Fahmy and Kerry and El-Sisi and his US counterpart, according to Ahram Online sources.

According to one Western diplomat in Cairo, in light of the recent "ban" of satirist Bassem Youssef's popular TV show and a leaked recording of a journalist being tortured at a police station, "it is not only the Islamists who are coming under attack, it is liberties and freedom as well."

During his visit to Cairo, Kerry will also discuss developments in Syria, to be considered by Arab League ministers in a special session this evening at the organisation's headquarters.

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