AMMAN, JORDAN — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Egypt's new interim leaders need to restore stability following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. He told Arab League foreign ministers in Jordan that the Obama administration is not rushing to declare this a coup, an important legal distinction that would affect U.S. aid to Egypt.
Kerry says Egypt is facing an "extremely complex and difficult situation."
"Very clearly, order needs to be restored to the streets, stability needs to be restored, violence needs to be ended, rights need to be protected, jobs need to be created, and the country needs to be able to return to normal business, hopefully," he said.
He says the United States wants to see everyone participate in a political transition to move the country forward on a democratic path without fear of retribution.
"We are concerned about political arrests, and we're concerned about the freedom of people to be able to participate because we think that's an important part of the restoration of the heart and soul of Egypt," he said.
President Morsi remains under arrest as do other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is rejecting the authority of an interim administration that took power early this month. That transitional authority includes army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who ousted Morsi and is now deputy prime minister. It has no members from Islamist parties.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh has met with those interim leaders and says the political and constitutional process "is very much on track."
"There's a constitutional process that is taking them in the right direction, which is forward, and in a timelined, benchmarked fashion," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Amman alongside the Jordanian foreign minister, Kerry said Washington has made clear its "very deep concern" about Egypt's armed forces removing President Morsi and suspending the constitution but is in no "rush to judgment" to declare his ouster a coup.
"We need to take the time necessary because of the complexity of this situation to evaluate what has taken place, to review all of our requirements under the law, and to make it consistent with our policy objectives," he said.
U.S. law requires the Obama administration to stop its more than $1.5 billion in annual aid if it decides this was a coup.
"What complicates it obviously is that you had an extraordinary situation in Egypt of life and death, of the potential of civil war and enormous violence, and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly. So we have to measure all of those facts against the law," he said.
Foreign Minister Judeh offered his opinion on the question, saying a military coup is when the military takes over, and that is not what happened here. Instead, he says soldiers intervened "to put the constitutional process back on track."
"And I think that we've got to give them the benefit of the doubt. They know best. The military in Egypt has been the guarantor of peace and stability in many twists and turns in Egypt's contemporary history," he said.
In their meetings with Arab League foreign ministers, Kerry and Judeh also discussed the war in Syria and efforts to resume Israeli/Palestinian peace talks on a two-state solution.