By CNN Staff
U.S. ties with Egypt go deeper than aid, America's top diplomat said Sunday.
"Let me make it clear here today: President Obama and the American people support the people of Egypt," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
"We believe this is a vital relationship."
Kerry's visit marked the highest-level U.S. official trip to Egypt since former President Mohamed Morsy's ouster in July. It was also his first trip to the country since the U.S. suspended significant military aid to Egypt over the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
After meeting with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, Kerry pushed for reforms as he defended the U.S. decision to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance.
"It's not a punishment," Kerry said. "It's a reflection of a policy in the United States under our law."
He described aid as "a very small issue."
"Our hope is that we can make the progress we need on democracy, the rights of people, the protections of people, the ability of the country to have its civil society strengthened and restored, and then we will march together hand in hand into the future, with Egypt playing the vital role that it has traditionally played in this region," Kerry said.
Kerry stressed that U.S. humanitarian support to Egypt continues, in addition to counterterrorism efforts with the military and work to ensure safety in the Sinai Peninsula.
The aid suspension last month roiled Egyptian officials. Fahmy told CNN's Christiane Amanpour at the time that the decision raised concerns about the U.S.-Egypt relationship.
"This has been a relationship that has a continuity to it, especially on strategic issues like military cooperation. And any disruption in that continuity raises concerns. ... This is a very important relationship to both countries, and we need to work to enhance it, because it serves both sides," he said.
Kerry's visit to Egypt was the first stop on a 10-day trip to the Middle East, Europe and Northern Africa. From Egypt, he is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia.