U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he may visit Egypt in the coming weeks in what would be his first trip since the army toppled the country's democratically elected president on July 3.
Ties between Washington and Cairo have deteriorated since the coup against former President Mohamed Mursi, who was elected last year after the toppling of authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, a longtime U.S. ally, in February 2011.
In one sign of the strains, the United States on Oct. 9 said it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as $260 million in cash aid pending Egypt's progress on democracy and human rights.
The coup has presented U.S. President Barack Obama with a dilemma.
On the one hand, he wants to maintain ties with a country of strategic importance because of its peace treaty with Israel, its control of the Suez Canal and its status as the Arab world's most populous nation.
On the other, he is reluctant to be seen as acquiescing in a coup against a popularly elected leader, albeit an Islamist who emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood movement and whom the U.S. government had come to view as ineffective.
Kerry raised the possibility of a trip to Egypt in the coming weeks at a town hall meeting with State Department employees.
"I think we may be going to Cairo sometime in the next weeks and one of the meetings that I insisted on having was that we make sure we meet with a cross-section of civil society," Kerry said in response to a question about the importance of engaging civil society groups.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters the department had not yet finalized Kerry's upcoming travel.
Kerry has gone to Egypt once since becoming secretary of state, on March 2 and 3, when he announced plans to give Mursi's government $190 million budget support and to release $60 million for an Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund that would support small and medium companies in the private sector.
U.S. officials said they had decided to give Mursi that support after he promised to take the painful economic reforms needed to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
They were disappointed, however, by the Mursi government's failure to move fast on such reforms.