By: Emily Crane and Joel Gulhane
The United States Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to visit Cairo this month as part of a two-week, multi-country diplomatic tour to kick off his term, according to a press statement issued by the US Department of State on Wednesday morning.
Kerry will be meeting with various officials, political leaders, civil society leaders and businessmen to “to encourage greater political consensus and moving forward on economic reforms”, the statement said. His trip is schedule 24 February and will last until 6 March.
Media spokesperson for the Egyptian foreign ministry, Nazih El-Neggary said that they would be discussing a variety of topics.
“We will be discussing the Palestinian peace process, the Syrian issue and general regional and bilateral issues,” said El-Neggary.
Kerry has also invited the Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby to meet with him during his visit to Cairo, according to the press statement. Nada Elegeze from the Arab League press office confirmed that they had received an invitation but have not yet decided on a specific date for the meeting or the topics to be discussed, as El-Araby is in Moscow until Sunday for the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum.
In an address to the US Agency for International Development on Friday, Kerry emphasised the importance of sustaining US aid to Egypt.
“In Egypt today, they are facing an extraordinary challenge of diminished reserves, instability, new governance, huge challenges of subsidies, how do they transition their economy,” Kerry said. “It’s in our interest to try to help make that happen in the most stable way possible. Why? Because Egypt is a quarter of the Arab world, because Egypt is critical to peace with Israel and with the Middle East, the only Arab country that’s made peace with Israel, Jordan included.”
In his address, he lauded the work of his predecessor, Hilary Clinton, in the region, and highlighted the importance of building on it now. Clinton had several encounters with President Mohamed Morsi during her term, the most notable of which was when the two brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
However, Kerry is no stranger to Middle Eastern politics himself, having served as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 2009 to 2013.
“John Kerry knows the region,” El-Neggary said when asked what he Kerry’s appointment as the secretary of state.
In addition to Egypt, Kerry will be travelling to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, the State Department’s press statement said.