Deputy Secretary of State Burns in Egypt

Joel Gulhane
5 Min Read
US deputy secretary of state William Burns met with General Al-Sisi on 15 July 2013
General commander of the armed forces Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi (right) meeting deputy secretary of state William Burns to discuss the Egyptian political scene (Photo from The armed forces' spokesman's Facebook page)
General commander of the armed forces Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi (right) meeting deputy secretary of state William Burns to discuss the Egyptian political scene
(Photo from The armed forces’ spokesman’s Facebook page)

United States Deputy Secretary of State William Burns began a two-day visit to Cairo on Sunday. He met with Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, and is expected to meet with interim government officials and civil society and business leaders.

Burns is the first US official to travel to Egypt following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. A State Department spokesman said on Sunday that Burns’ visit will last for two days and is expected to “underscore U.S. support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.”

Al-Sisi and Burns discussed the latest developments in Egypt “and exchanged views on developments in the Egyptian political scene and a number of topics and issues of common concern,” according to a statement published by the armed forces spokesman. The pair also discussed ways of strengthening “cooperation in light of the excellent relations linking the two countries.” The spokesman reported that US ambassador Anne Patterson and senior commanders of the Egyptian armed forces attended the meeting.

Spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood Gehad El-Haddad said that the group was not approached to meet with Burns. He asserted, “we do not recognise [the interim government]. It does not have the constitutional grounds.” He denied that the Brotherhood called for international intervention in the situation in Egypt, rather that the group “called for the world to recognise the reality of the situation in Egypt.” The Brotherhood has stood firm in labelling Morsi’s ouster by the armed forces as a military coup, while those who supported the military’s intervention stress that Morsi was removed as a result of the people’s will.

Nader Bakkar, spokesman for the Salafi Al-Nour Party said that his party received a “request from the honourable Anne Patterson to meet with Deputy Secretary Burns.” He denied that the party rejected the invitation but instead “apologised for not attending.”

Tamarod announced that it had rejected an invitation to meet with Burns in a press conference on Monday. Spokesman for the ‘rebellion’ group claimed the reason for not meeting with Burns is because the US was one country that promoted the situation as a military coup, adding that even before the demonstrations his group believed that the US supported the Brotherhood.

Burns arrives in Egypt at a time when anti-US sentiment is at a high amongst Egyptians. Demonstrators calling for the ouster of Morsi also directed their anger at the Patterson and US President Barack Obama; posters depicting their faces with red crosses through them have been a common sight at many protests as well as signs reading “Obama supports terrorism”. In some instances demonstrators have set fire to pictures of Obama.

The US administration is still deciding how the removal of Morsi by the armed forces affects the status of the financial assistance it provides to Egypt. This hinges on the US administration’s interpretation of the events leading to Morsi’s ouster in relation to US law on foreign funding.

US law states that assistance shall be cut off in the event that a “duly elected head of government is deposed by decree or military coup.” It also states that funding can resume once democratic elections have been held. The law does allow for “assistance to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes.”


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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane