Egypt and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate on defeating the terror group Islamist State (IS), emphasizing the long history of Egypt-US cooperation on security issues within the MENA region and globally.
Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that Egypt is playing a large role in combating IS, contributing to a multinational effort in which the US plays a key part.
Shoukry made the comments on the sidelines of a conference in Washington DC focussed on multinational efforts to defeat IS. The so-called “US-led coalition” now includes 67 nations, including the 28 members of NATO, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.
On Thursday, Kerry expressed his pleasure at Egypt’s role in the anti-IS coalition, adding that Egypt is also making valuable contributions to resolving a number of security issues in the region. He highlighted the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestine issue as a key area in which Egypt is helpful.
"We consider Egypt an important partner indeed, in a number of ways, because of their important role in the Middle East and their leading role in the Arab World,” Kerry said.
Kerry also said that the coalition will have to step up its efforts against IS if it wishes to defeat the group, a hint at increased military action in Iraq and Syria, where the US is conducting bombing raids and has deployed special forces on the ground.
Shoukry said that Egypt is aware of the threat that IS and terrorism in general pose to the world. He said that the US-Egypt relationship goes back decades and that the two nations rely heavily on the strategic nature of their rapport and their common interests on global issues.
However, there was some hint at the tensions and differences of opinion between the two nations. Kerry expressed concerns about the challenges facing Egypt and highlighted the need for improvements, particularly on the economic front.
He said that upcoming talks with Shoukry will encompass a shift in Egypt’s economic policies that is necessary if it is going to attract investors and move on from a period of stagnation. The US and the World Bank have both been calling for deregulation in Egypt and the end of government subsidies that they say conflict with free-market economics.
Shoukry, meanwhile, said that Egypt is now in a transitional phase, but that he is sure that it will overcome the challenges it faces, whether they are internal or external. Success in this regard depends on the current government honoring the demands of the people during the revolutions of 2011 and 2013, he said.
Shokry said that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his government enjoy widespread popularity, based in part on their continued support for democratic and humanitarian values.