U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Egyptian officials at a Sunday news conference that human rights abuses could undermine the Middle Eastern nation's ongoing fight against terrorism.
“The success of our fight against terrorism depends on building trust between the authorities and the public,” Kerry said, at the conference, which was attended by his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, according to the New York Times. “If that possibility does not exist, then, regrettably, more misguided people will be driven to violence and there will be more attacks.”
Kerry’s warning comes at a time when Cairo is struggling to deal with a growing insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and neighboring Libya, where several groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Washington and international human rights bodies have also raised concerns over Egypt’s sweeping crackdown on suspected militants, including members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian troops have seen frequent clashes with militants in recent months, including a deadly attack in early July that resulted in 17 soldiers and 100 militants killed in battle. In June, militants assassinated Egypt’s chief prosecutor in the streets of Cairo with a bomb.
Washington announced last week that it would deliver eight F-16 fighter jets to Egypt to help bolster the country’s security, as part of a $1.3 billion plan to revamp Egypt’s military. Kerry said on Sunday that the U.S. would continue to move toward resuming “Bright Star,” the joint military exercise that President Barack Obama suspended in 2013, after Egypt’s military rulers cracked down on ousted president Mohammed Morsi.
Kerry also said that officials discussed ways to bolster military cooperation between the two countries, including expanding training efforts and helping Egypt police its border with Libya.
Egypt is America’s second-largest recipient of military aid, receiving about 0.2 percent of all U.S. foreign military aid. The funds were frozen in 2013 but resumed in March, amid growing instability in the region.
Egypt’s human rights issue has been called “the most serious in the country’s modern history” by watchdog Human Rights Watch. The country has been accused of suppressing political dissent through violence, constricting civil liberties, and targeting political opponents and dissident journalists.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Cairo also postponed the verdict in a case involving three Al Jazeera journalists, whose imprisonment has been condemned by press rights groups. The three men were charged with trying to destabilize the government in 2013 in collusion with the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Shoukry defended the imprisonment of protesters and 18 local and international journalists, and added that it was necessary to secure national security, the Times reported. He said the journalists “are accused of implication with terrorist activity,” and added that they would be tried with “due process.”