Interim Minister of Defence Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi discussed the current situation in Egypt with United States Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel on Tuesday.
Hagel urged Al-Sisi “to continue to take steps to demonstrate the interim government’s commitment to advance the political roadmap,” according to a Department of Defence readout of the conversation.
The two defence chiefs also “discussed Egyptian efforts to secure and rebuild Coptic Christian communities impacted by violence and to maintain security on the Sinai Peninsula.”
The armed forces recently launched its largest operation in the Sinai region to combat the threat of armed militants that have been consistently targeting military and police personnel and infrastructure in the region. The most recent attack, simultaneous car bombs in the border town of Rafah, claimed the lives of six people and injured 17.
Following attacks on churches nationwide, the official spokesperson for the armed forces Colonel Ahmed Ali confirmed in August that the military would rebuild the churches that were burnt down or damaged in the attacks. Military engineers visited the sites of damaged churches in the Minya governorate on Tuesday. Minya was subjected to at least 54 attacks on Christian churches and property, including schools, private homes and businesses, according to Sectarian Attacks, a website documenting such incidents in Egypt.
Hagel and Al-Sisi have both said that they speak regularly of the telephone in separate interviews with the BBC and the Washington Post, respectively.
The defence secretary expressed reluctance to cut ties with Egypt amidst a White House review of the US relationship with Egypt, which has been on-going since the armed forces ousted former President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests on 30 June. Al-Sisi outlined a political roadmap on 3 July, the night of Morsi’s ouster.
Hagel said: “We would not want to see the disintegration of a relationship with a large important country like Egypt.” The US expressed concern over the last few months regarding the increased violence in Egypt and the security forces’ crackdown on Morsi supporters, including the arrest of leading Muslim Brotherhood figures and affiliates.