US backs Egypt in fighting terrorism: Tillerson

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) in Cairo on Monday. — AFP

CAIRO —- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday Washington supports Egypt's fight against Daesh (the so-called IS) but reiterated that it advocated free and fair elections in the country.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri, Tillerson also said that Washington remained committed to achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians, despite President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Monday's meeting with Sameh Shoukry comes as Egypt is undertaking a major military operation in Sinai, where militants have been leading an insurgency for years, and in remote areas of the mainland where extremists have attacked security forces and civilians.

From Egypt, Tillerson will travel on to Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, meeting officials there.

US Secretary of State in Egypt at start of Mideast tour

US officials agreed on Friday that most of Tillerson's discussions will likely be difficult, saying those with NATO ally Turkey will probably be especially prickly given Turkish military action against US-backed Kurdish rebels in northern Syria and escalating anti-American rhetoric in Ankara. But the officials said diplomacy is necessary to cement anti-IS gains and restore regional stability as the administration presses other nations and private companies to help with post-war reconstruction.

In Jordan, Tillerson will be doing damage control after President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his administration's subsequent decision to withhold aid money from the UN agency assisting Palestinian refugees. Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, including refugees, is among the most concerned. In Amman, Tillerson is expected to sign a multiyear, multibillion dollar US aid package with Jordan to shore up the relationship.

Tillerson concludes the trip in Ankara with talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which are expected to be tense. The US officials said Tillerson will repeat warnings for Turkey to show restraint in military operations in Kurdish areas of Syria. — Agencies


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