'Believe It Or Not,' Kerry Says He’s Keeping 'Close Tabs' on Egypt, Syria

July 1, 2013 - 4:14 AM

Mideast Egypt

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 1, 2013. Hundreds of thousands thronged the streets of Cairo and cities around the country Sunday in an attempt to force out the Islamist president with the most massive protests Egypt has seen in 2½ years of turmoil.  (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State John Kerry says "believe it or not," he's keeping close tabs on the protests in Egypt that have brought millions into the streets against Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.

"Well, with respect to Egypt, I have – believe it or not, even in the middle of this, I’m keeping in very close tabs with what’s happening in Egypt as well as Syria," Kerry told reporters in Tel Aviv, Israel on Sunday.

"And I have talked to Mr. ElBaradei, I’ve talked to Amr Moussa, I have talked with leaders of Gulf countries particularly – talked with King Abdullah, talked with – every meeting I’ve had, we have also focused on Egypt, because Egypt is a great concern to all of us," he said.

The Secretary of State was in Tel Aviv on a diplomacy tour in the Middle East, meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in attempts to restart peace talks.

Millions of Egyptians rallied in Cairo on Sunday, demanding Morsi step down, one year after his inauguration on June 30, 2012.  The protests, organized by the opposition group Tamarod ("rebel"), are the largest since the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarek in 2011.

The protesters are not just upset with Morsi's rule, but also with America's support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of them carried signs reading, "Obama supports terrorism," and "Down with the Brotherhood! Down with America!"

Four people have died in clashes between Morsi defenders and opponents, including an American.

Kerry said he believes the U.S. Embassy in Cairo is secure because many of the staff are away on vacation.

"The Embassy – we are very confident about the status, we believe, of the Embassy," he said. "There are a great many Embassy folks who are on voluntary – who have been offered a voluntary drawdown. It’s up to them whether or not they want to draw down."

"In addition to that, we have a huge number of people who are actually on leave and away because of vacation and home-leave time," Kerry said.  "So we believe our Embassy is appropriately staffed, and we believe it is appropriately protected."

"And we’ve been in touch, obviously, with [U.S.] Ambassador [Anne] Patterson and staying in close touch with people on the ground," he added.