Nearly two weeks after the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, the Obama administration appears to be quietly trying to mop up some of the mess it created with its handling of the revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood.
But it’s still insisting that the Islamists who were the impetus for the massive protests and ouster in the first place be part of the solution.
America’s diplomatic presence in Egypt has been seriously soured by missteps including Ambassador Anne Patterson discouraging the epic protests against Islamist rule on June 30 and reportedly trying to discourage Coptic Christians from taking part.
Both President Obama and Patterson were lambasted by protesters as propping up the Muslim Brotherhood and sanctioning the Islamists’ abuses against the Egyptian people.
Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns went to Cairo on Saturday for a visit scheduled through Tuesday. Burns is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since the overthrow. “In all these meetings, he will underscore U.S. support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government,” the State Department said in its announcement, noticeably urging the inclusivity that signaled in the administration’s first responses that they want the Muslim Brotherhood to remain part of the political picture.
Burns maintained that the U.S. “as outsiders” would not “support particular political personalities and particular parties.”
“What we’re going to continue to try to do is to support an open inclusive, tolerant democratic process,” he told reporters. “We hope it will be a chance to learn some of the lessons and correct some of the mistakes of the last two years.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said today that Burns has met with Interim President Adly Mansour, interim vice president for international relations Mohamed ElBaradei, and Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, as well as “a group of business leaders, a group of human rights activists, a group of Coptic bishops.”
“He has not met with a member of — or a representative from the Muslim Brotherhood. Again, I don’t have an update beyond what he’s done to date,” she said. “As you know, we are in very regular contact with all groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“The message that he has been communicating to all the officials is about the importance of having an inclusive process and the steps that they take from here towards that.”
Psaki had no comment on the Tamarod opposition movement’s boycott of a roundtable hosted by Patterson for Burns’ visit. The rebel movement refused to participate out of protest over the way the U.S. approached their revolution.
“He did say that despite our concerns about the developments of the past two weeks, we believe that the ongoing transition is another opportunity, following the January 25th revolution, to create a democratic state that protects human rights and the rule of law, and that enable economic prosperity among all of its citizens,” Psaki said of Burns’ meetings. “And he encouraged the interim government to continue to take steps to be inclusive of all sides as they work toward the process moving forward.”
She wouldn’t disclose whether the U.S. knew of Morsi’s whereabouts, but said the U.S. continues to call for his release.
The CIA’s regularly updated online database of world leaders still lists Morsi as president of Egypt.
“It’s for the Egyptian people to decide what his role will be moving forward,” Psaki added. “…We believe that President Morsi was democratically elected. The question is the steps that were taken from there, and we have talked about quite a bit the voices of 22 million people.”