U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meeting with Egypt’s foreign minister Monday in Cairo, said the United States remains committed to the peace process in the Middle East amid its controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Tillerson began a five-nation visit to the region Monday — with stops later in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Kuwait. A visit to Israel is not planned.
“In the announcement President Trump made regarding Jerusalem, he also made two very important points, as well, one of which was, he was not advocating for any change to the status quo as to the oversight of the holy sites, recognizing the proper role of existing authorities,” Tillerson said at a joint news conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukri. “And the second is that the final boundaries of Jerusalem are yet to be determined and will be decided among the parties.”
The two spoke about the presidential election next Monday in Egypt, economic and military cooperation.
“The United States, as it does in all countries, supports a transparent and credible electoral process and all citizens being given the right and the opportunity to participate freely and fairly,” Tillerson said.
Incumbent President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is running largely unopposed.
“The Egyptian people have shown their commitment and their determination and their ability to change their course and to indicate their dissatisfaction if they deemed they were dissatisfied,” Tillerson said. “They have been able to change two governments in the last seven years and they have undertaken legislative elections and know how to protect their rights and advocate.”
Tillerson said they also spoke about the promotion and protection of human rights and the vital role of civil society in Egypt.
Shoukri said that “development in the social and political field is an evolutionary process.”
The leaders also discussed the fight against terrorism.
“We agreed that we would continue our close cooperation on counter-terrorism measures, including our joint commitment to the defeat of ISIS, and Egypt has been a very important member of the defeat-ISIS coalition from the beginning,” Tilleron said. “Egypt deals with the threats of ISIS themselves and are dealing with it currently in the Sinai.”
“There is a common vision and a desire to continue working together with a view to stabilizing areas of tension in the region,” Shoukri added.
By Allen Cone