CAIRO — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Egypt Wednesday, following stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The secretary is making his first trip to the Middle East since taking office in January.
Secretary Hagel's visit to Cairo comes amid political tensions between Egypt's mostly secular opposition and its Islamist leaders. Low-key meetings with President Mohamed Morsi and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi are expected to cover defense ties, security concerns, and regional developments.
The U.S. has been working to keep channels open with Egypt's new government since Morsi took office last June. The countries have had close ties since former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the U.S.-brokered Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978.
The U.S. and its regional allies are concerned that political and economic turmoil in Egypt could worsen instability in the Middle East.
Clashes in Suez and Port Said earlier this year raised fears of a possible disruption of shipping in the Suez Canal while lawlessness in the Sinai threatens security along the Israeli border.
Hagel said Tuesday that the U.S. and its allies need to remain "closer than ever" as challenges in the Middle East become increasingly complicated.
Hagel is due to end his five-nation tour with a visit to the United Arab Emirates late Wednesday. The U.S. announced that it has agreed to sell $10 billion worth of arms to allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.