CAIRO, Nov. 3 -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a brief tour to Egypt on Sunday, one day ahead of ousted President Mohamed Morsi's trial.
Given its sensitive timing, the trip prompted Egyptian politicians and experts to speculate over the real reasons behind the visit.
Kerry, the highest-level U.S. official to visit Egypt since the ouster of Morsi, met with interim President Adly Mansour, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy and a group of civic leaders.
During his visit, Kerry confirmed that the United States would continue to support and work with Egypt's interim government.
Meanwhile, he stressed that the U.S.-Egypt partnership will be the strongest when Egypt is represented by an inclusive democratically-elected civilian government based on the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and an open and competitive economy.
Kerry also stressed that the suspension of aid to Egypt is not a punishment but a legal requirement after what had happened on July 3, when Morsi was ousted.
Although Kerry's schedule did not include any meetings with Muslim Brotherhood representatives, some experts here see that the timing of his visit was significant and had something to do with the trial of Morsi.
"Kerry's visit is connected with the trial of Morsi," said Ahmed Abul-Kheir, a former assistant foreign minister.
"I can't rule out that Kerry came for finding an exit for Morsi and his group," Abul-Kheir told Xinhua, saying the United States has been "in favor of the group" since Morsi's ouster.
"Today Kerry came to show Egypt what will be the price the U.S. is ready to pay for saving Morsi and his group," he said.
Abul-Kheir did not rule out the possibility that Morsi's trial might carry a lot of secrets that would have negative effect on the image of Washington should they be made public.
Several political parties and movements also expressed their suspicions about Kerry's visit, which came one day before the first session of the trial of Morsi and some other leaders of Muslim Brotherhood charged with incitement of murder and violence in Ittihadiya presidential palace clashes in December 2012.
Despite the affirmation by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry that Kerry's visit had nothing to do with Morsi's trial, several political parties warned against any foreign interference in the trial of the former president, stressing they will not accept any dictates coming from abroad.
During his meeting with Fahmy, the Egyptian foreign minister, Kerry said that he and Fahmy agreed on the need to ensure that Egyptians are afforded due process with fair and transparent trials.
For Huda Ragheb, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, speculated that Washington has softened its stance toward Egypt given that Kerry did not meet any Brotherhood leaders.
"Kerry didn't refer to the trial of Morsi in specific and didn't even meet with Brotherhood," Ragheb said, adding that the United States is beginning to show its softer side to Egypt.
"They are just looking for ways to restore normal ties with Egypt again and are looking for a legal solution for this," Ragheb told Xinhua.
Egypt is a "vital partner" to the United States and the U.S. government is committed to working with the interim government and supporting the Egyptian people, Kerry said at a joint press conference after he met with Fahmy.
Relations between the two countries became a little subtler after the United States decided on Oct. 9 to suspend the annual 1.3-billion-U.S.-dollar miliary assistance to the Middle East ally.
Kerry said the U.S.-Egypt ties should not be "defined by assistance," adding that the suspension was not a punishment but a reflection of the U.S. foreign policy after the military toppled the country's first democratically-elected president.
"(U.S.) President Barack Obama has worked very hard to be able to make sure that it will not disrupt the U.S. relations with Egypt," Kerry said.
"The U.S. is finding an exit to restore normal U.S.-Egyptian ties after it felt the danger of the diminishing of its influence in the region, especially after the Egyptian foreign minister declared that Egypt may look beyond the U.S. to meet its security needs," Ragheb said.
Ragheb noted that whether the U.S. aid to Egypt resumed or not, ties with the United States would not come back to its golden days, as Egypt would be keen to build balanced relations with all countries in the world and would not accept any interference in its internal affairs.
However, Wahid Abdel Maguid, a political expert at Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, said Kerry's visit was just a normal tour for consultation with the interim government as it was the first leg of a nine-day trip to the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
"Kerry only reiterated the U.S. stance that normal relations and full support to Egypt are still conditioned with the Egyptians' success to reach democratic political life," said Maguid.
"If Egypt failed again to complete its democratic transition, it will not only lose its ties with the U.S., but also with other countries who will look at it in a negative way," he added.