U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says increasingly deadly political violence in Egypt has brought the country to "a pivotal moment."
In a statement from Washington, Kerry urged all of Egypt's political leaders to "act immediately" and help the country "step back from the brink" after security forces on July 27 reportedly killed scores of supporters of ousted Islamist President Muhammad Morsi.
Kerry said Egypt's "final verdict is not yet decided, but it will be forever impacted by what happens right now."
Kerry's statement came as thousands of supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood remained hunkered down near a Cairo mosque early on July 28, vowing to stand their ground "until death" after the killings there a day earlier.
Egypt’s Health Ministry said 65 people were killed near the mosque early on July 27 in clashes between security forces and Morsi’s supporters.
The Muslim Brotherhood said more than 100 were killed and accused Egypt’s security forces of "shooting to kill" unarmed demonstrators.
But Egypt's interior minister denied police had fired on protesters in Cairo.
Nine other people have also been killed in Alexandria since July 26 as a result of clashes between Morsi’s supporters and those who oppose the Islamist leader.
Morsi was ousted by Egypt’s armed forces on July 3 after mass demonstrations demanding his removal.
Kerry says he spoke by telephone on July 27 with Egypt’s interim Vice President Muhammad ElBaradei, interim Foreign Minister Nbil Fahmy, and European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton to express Washington's deep concern about the bloodshed in Cairo and Alexandria.
He said that in the "extremely volatile environment, Egyptian authorities have a moral and legal obligation" to respect the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Kerry reiterated Washington’s call for an end to politicized detentions and the release of political leaders so that a meaningful political dialogue can move forward.
He also urged "an independent and impartial inquiry" into the July 27 violence
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP.