US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Egypt on Saturday afternoon, beginning a 48-hour whistlestop tour by meeting the country’s newly elected president Mohamed Morsi.
Clinton is set to arrive at Cairo airport at 4pm and head directly to the presidential palace in Heliopolis to meet Morsi. A news conference will be held after their talks.
According to diplomatic sources, Clinton and Morsi will discuss Egypt-US relations and the military and economic aid given by the US to Egypt. Also on the table are regional developments in Sudan and Syria.
Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, has received an average of $1.6 billion a year since it signed a 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Of this sum, more than 65 per cent – or $1.3 billion – goes towards military aid, which plays an important role in the shaping of Egypt’s foreign policy.
A draft bill was proposed in May by the US Senate which would make US military assistance to Egypt conditional on the public disclosure of Egypt’s military and police budgets. One condition is that the US Secretary of State must certify that Egypt is meeting its obligations under the 1979 treaty with Israel.
The bill also states that the government of Egypt should provide “civilian control over, and public disclosure of, [Egypt’s] military and police budgets.”
After talks with Morsi, Clinton is due to meet Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to discuss the country’s democratic transition and its policies towards the US and Israel.
Their discussion will continue over a banquet dinner at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, beginning around 6.30pm on Saturday evening.
According to Reuters, Clinton will also meet the head of Egypt’s military Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi on Sunday, but no further details on time or location have been given.
What is confirmed is that on Sunday morning Clinton is scheduled to meet representatives of local women’s rights organisations to discuss the status of Egyptian women in the wake of the 2011 uprising.
Clinton will then head to Alexandria in the afternoon, officially opening the new US consulate in the coastal city at around 3.30pm.
Earlier reports suggested Clinton would also give a speech at Alexandria’s Bibliotheque. This, however, was denied by the press office of the US Embassy in Cairo, speaking to Ahram Online.
This weekend marks Clinton’s first official visit to Egypt since Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as Egypt’s first freely-elected president.
Clinton’s visit to Egypt comes amid mounting criticism in some quarters over the Muslim Brotherhood’s alleged connections and past agreements with the US.
Since the 1970s, Egypt has been considered one of Washington’s main allies in the Middle East and a cornerstone in its regional strategy. But the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and the recent election of an Islamist president has led some to predict a significant shift in future relations between Washington and Cairo.