Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo on March 3, 2013. / Getty Images
Updated 1:40 p.m. ET
CAIRO Secretary of State John Kerry brought an urgent message to Egyptian leaders in Cairo, prodding them to fix the teetering economy in order to receive a nearly $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.
The U.S. is deeply concerned that without that money, the economy could collapse and cause political instability.
Kerry brought that message to President Mohammed Morsi. The two leaders met for more than two hours on Sunday afternoon. A senior State Department official said the two talked about the Middle East peace process, Syria, Iran, the Egyptian economy, the importance of building political consensus, human rights, the NGO law, police reform, judicial reform, and the rule of law, including the importance of preventing sexual violence. No other detail was provided by the State Department to characterize the meeting.
During remarks made earlier in Cairo, the secretary said that if Egypt complies with a list of 'very specific' recommendations it may unlock more financial support from countries like Turkey, Germany and the U.S.
Secretary Kerry has some potential financial leverage in his pocket. The U.S. Congress has refused to release nearly $450 million that the Obama administration already promised to Egypt. Members of Congress are demanding guarantees on how that money will be spent. Egypt already receives around $1.3 billion a year in military financing from the U.S., which makes it the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid after Israel.
To deliver those economic reforms, President Morsi needs the support of the political opposition, which is vocally critical of Morsi's fledgling government and an election law that they say favors the his former political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. A senior State Department Ooficial traveling with Secretary Kerry said that the U.S. is stressing the importance of outreach to build consensus in the election process.
Two well-known political figures avoided meetings with Sec. Kerry to protest U.S. support of President Mohammed Morsi and to avoid appearing close to the superpower which helped keep dictator Hosni Mubarak in power for more than 30 years.
Prominent opposition leaders have called for a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections which are scheduled to be held in stages between April and June.
Former IAEA inspector Mohammed El Baradei and former Arab League head Amr Moussa are among those calling for a boycott. Kerry consulted privately with them on Saturday after the two refused to attend a roundtable discussion hosted by the secretary of state. Kerry urged them to engage in the political process to have their views included. Following those meetings, Kerry told reporters that he heard nothing that indicated that they will change their mind about the election boycott.
Egypt is the first Arab country that John Kerry visited since he became secretary of state. A senior U.S. official said that the primary goal of the visit is to encourage the work that President Morsi did with the Israelis to broker a Gaza ceasefire in November 2012.