"Here, as in all nations, we believe that respect for human rights and an inclusive political system are essential," Kerry told a joint press conference in Manama with his Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.
Kerry said he and Sheikh Khalid "had the chance to discuss the ongoing effort to address and to reduce sectarian divisions here in Bahrain and elsewhere."
"I appreciate the seriousness with which he considers this issue," he said.
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"We all welcome steps by sides to create conditions to provide for greater political involvement for the citizens of this great country," he added.
In 2011, the tiny but strategic island state, which is dominated by a ruling family drawn from the Sunni minority, crushed a Shiite-led uprising calling for a full constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister.
Scores of Shiites were rounded up and sentenced to lengthy jail terms, including opposition chiefs.
Amnesty International urged Bahraini authorities earlier this month to "immediately and unconditionally" release jailed opposition figures.
"The alarming erosion of human rights in Bahrain in recent years means that anyone who dares to criticise the authorities or call for reform risks severe punishment," said Amnesty's regional deputy director James Lynch.