US ‘refuses to take sides’ in Egyptian political turmoil, says Deputy Secretary of State


Click to follow
The Independent Online

William Burns, the US Deputy Secretary of State, has said America will not take sides in Egypt’s political turmoil. The comment came during the first official visit by a US diplomat to Egypt since the army-backed revolt which ousted President Mohamed Morsi this month.

Mr Burns, who is in Cairo to meet Egypt’s interim leaders and figures from the military, had also hoped to meet opposition figures whose movements played key roles in Mr Morsi’s removal from power, but found himself snubbed by major Islamist and liberal political factions who helped topple Mr Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Americans support Mohamed Morsi even though the people have rejected him,” said Eman el-Mahdy, a founding member of Tamarod, the movement which helped sweep the ex-President from power. It refused to meet Mr Burns, along with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist al-Nour party, the only Islamist party in the anti-Morsi movement.

“We don’t have to sit down and defend our actions. Our actions are clear for the whole world to see,” Mr Mahdy added.

A simmering hostility towards America has long been present on the streets of Egypt – despite the decades-old alliance between Cairo and Washington. Feeding on the resentment caused by US support for former president Hosni Mubarak – along with Washington’s military adventurism in the Middle East and local sympathy for the Palestinian cause – it has provided fertile ground for anti-Americanism.

Yet to wander between Cairo’s warring revolutionary camps is to experience a new incarnation of the phenomenon. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents profess contempt for Washington; both accuse the Americans of supporting their enemies – and both believe that the anti-American- ism of their opponents is a politically expedient fallacy.

Mostafa al-Khatib, a media co-ordinator for Mr Morsi’s supporters, told The Independent that Washington had implicitly supported the toppling of the former President.

“It’s clear now that we had a military coup, yet it is also clear that the Americans have not said it was a military coup.” Egypt receives an annual $1.5bn aid package from America. The deal would be threatened if Washington acknowledged the occurrence of a coup d’état.

Speaking in Cairo on Monday, Mr Burns said: “We don’t take the side of particular personalities or particular parties... I did not come with American solutions, nor did I come to lecture anyone. We will not try to impose our model on Egypt.”