The United States on Sunday resumed formal security talks with Egypt that were last held six years ago despite persistent human rights concerns, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Two days after the U.S. delivered eight F-16 warplanes to Egypt as part of a military support package that the Obama administration is boosting to help Egypt counter an increasing terrorist threat, Secretary of State John Kerry restarted the so-called "strategic dialogue" with Egyptian officials in Cairo, according to the report.
The dialogue was last held in 2009 and did not occur in subsequent years due to the Arab Spring and turmoil following the ouster of Egypt's authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama released military aid to Egypt that was suspended after the 2013 overthrow of the government.
American law forbids sending aid to countries where a democratic government was deposed by a military coup, though Washington has never qualified Morsi’s ouster as a "coup" and had been cautious about doing so, choosing only to condemn the violence in the country.
On Sunday, Kerry said the administration is committed to working with Egypt to enhance its military capabilities as it confronts growing threats from extremists, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula.
Before meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi, Kerry told Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry the U.S. would "continue to provide robust training to the Egyptian military, as the military seeks it and desires it, in an effort to build capacity, and also to meet the highest expectations of your military for its professionalism."
He noted that in addition to the F-16s, the U.S. had provided Egypt with Apache helicopters, attack boats, armored vehicles and other weapons systems this year. More aid is on the way, said Kerry, according to AP.
At the same time, he acknowledged stress in the U.S.-Egypt relationship over human rights and said Washington would continue to press Cairo on the arrests of dissidents and journalists and mass trials.
"Obviously, there has been a little bit of tension over certain issues," he told reporters at a joint news conference with Shoukry that was held shortly after a court in Cairo again postponed a verdict in the trial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists, whose arrests on have sparked widespread condemnation.
Shoukry said no journalists have been detained in Egypt for doing their jobs, only for terrorism and other offenses, and he rejected criticism that detainees were being denied due process, according to AP.
He said Egypt is committed to improving its human rights conditions but noted that all countries, even mature democracies, have imperfect rights records.