Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his US counterpart John Kerry discussed Egypt’s regional role in the Middle East peace process and tackling extremism in the region.
The pair met following the daylong Gaza Reconstruction Conference held in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the outcome of the day’s events and bilateral and regional cooperation.
Kerry stressed: “Egypt remains a key partner for the United States and a leader in the region”. He added that he would hold further discussions with Shoukry and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Monday.
Shoukry and Kerry discussed how “to help define the specific role that Egypt will play in the coalition”, which is US-led, to destroy extremist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).
Kerry said on Sunday that Egypt’s role as “an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world” is highly important in “in publicly renouncing the ideology of hatred and violence that [ISIS] spreads”. He added that this is a “central topic” the pair have discussed in recent meetings.
“It is really important that the religious establishments at Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ifta are both fully supportive and understanding of the need to draw these distinctions with respect to religion,” Kerry said.
Both institutions have spoken out against ISIS in recent weeks, describing the group as “barbaric” and rejecting the group’s self-styled name ‘Islamic State’.
Shoukry said in September during a meeting in Jeddah on the ISIS threat that Egypt has to “fight its own battle against a common enemy”. He added that the country has shown no indication of following the US, UK and Gulf countries in carrying out airstrikes on the group in Iraq.
The US is also targeting the group in Syrian territory along with support from Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Kerry praised Egypt’s role in establishing the Gaza Reconstruction Conference and its efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza at the end of August. He, like many other high-level diplomats, called for “building a long-term prospect for peace that builds confidence about the future”.
The two diplomats also discussed the situation in Egypt, with Kerry offering the US’ “strong support for Egypt as it undertakes significant reforms and works towards economic transformation for all Egyptians”.
Kerry talked with Shoukry on “the essential role of a vibrant civil society” for Egyptian society, adding that the US looks forward to the announcement of parliamentary elections in Egypt in “the days ahead”.