In Cairo for the first time since July's military takeover, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he sees signs Egypt is moving back toward democracy following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi.
"Thus far there are indications that this is what they are intending to do," Kerry said after a meeting with his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
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The most senior US official to visit Egypt since Morsi's removal, Kerry said Cairo remains a vital US partner and downplayed recent tensions between the two countries.
He said he wanted to stress to the Egyptian people "as clearly and as forcefully as I can in no uncertain terms, that the United States is a friend of the people of Egypt, of the country of Egypt, and we are a partner."
Kerry's visit comes one day before Morsi is set to stand trial on charges of inciting murder.
The Obama administration has frozen some of its annual $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt because of the bloodshed and political turmoil.
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Strains were clearly evident during Sunday's visit. The State Department refused to confirm Kerry's brief meeting until he landed in Cairo, and Kerry spent most of his time there at a hotel near the airport in hopes of avoiding the potential for demonstrations.
He was to close his visit with meetings at the presidential palace and defense ministry later in the day.
The Cairo visit was Kerry's first stop in a nine-day trip to the Middle East, Eastern Europe and North Africa.
The top US diplomat has now left for Saudi Arabia, hoping to soothe tensions over Washington's refusal to intervene in Syria and its diplomatic overtures to Iran.