US Secretary of State John Kerry said today his country is committed to working with Egypt's interim rulers, on his first visit to Cairo since the army ousted president Mohammed Morsi.
On the eve of the opening of Morsi's trial, Kerry was in Cairo to shore up ties with a key ally and ensure it moves ahead on plans to restore democracy, just weeks after Washington partly suspended aid to Egypt.
"We are committed to work with and we will continue our cooperation with the interim government," Kerry told a joint news conference with Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, urging "inclusive, free and fair elections".
"The US is a friend of the people of Egypt, of the country of Egypt, and we are a partner," he stressed.
Kerry also played down Washington's suspension of part of its USD 1.5 billion in annual aid to Cairo, denying the decision had been taken to punish Egypt's military leaders and saying it "is a very small issue between us".
"US-Egyptian relations should not be defined by assistance," Kerry said, adding direct aid would continue to help Egyptians in areas such as health and education and to aid "counter terrorism" efforts.
In a move that angered Cairo, Washington last month said it was "recalibrating" its aid to Egypt -- including about USD 1.3 billion for military assistance -- and suspending delivery of big-ticket items like Apache helicopters and F-16 aircraft.
Kerry -- the most senior figure of the US administration to visit since Morsi's July 3 ouster -- said he had candid discussions with Fahmy, and he had other meetings later with interim president Adly Mansour and powerful military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
During his six-hour visit, he was also hosting an encounter with a broad cross section of civil society groups, including religious groups, human rights advocates, and youth and labour organisations.
The top US diplomat said Washington believed "the US-Egypt partnership will be strongest when Egypt is represented by a democratically elected government".
He condemned violence since Morsi's ouster, but said nothing about Morsi himself.
More than 1,000 people have been killed in Egypt as security forces engage in a sweeping crackdown against supporters of Morsi who have tried to stage near daily protests against the Islamist president's ouster.