Egypt summons US ambassador over reported Muslim Brotherhood meeting

Egypt summons US ambassador over reported Muslim Brotherhood meeting
A reported private meeting in Washington with members of the Muslim Brotherhood has prompted diplomatic action in Cairo.
2 min read
09 June, 2015
Fromer President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed after he was ousted by Sisi's coup [AFP]

Egypt has expressed its displeasure following reports of a private conference between US officials and Muslim Brotherhood figures, prompting it to summon Washington's Cairo ambassador to an emergency meeting.

According to Reuters, US officials did not intend to meet the group, although they had met some Brotherhood figures that came to Washington in January.

Egypt sought a meeting with US Ambassador Stephen Beecroft to make clear its unhappiness at US dealings with the Brotherhood.

However, Reuters also added that state department spokesman Jeff Rathke declined to confirm either if Beecroft had been summoned by the Egyptian authorities, or whether US officials had or would meet Brotherhood figures visiting Washington.

The tensions reflect a clash between US diplomats' desire to deal with the entirety of Egypt's political spectrum and a fear of alienating President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who, as army chief, toppled a Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013.

The Obama administration sent Congress a report harshly criticising the Egyptian government for its restrictions of free speech, arrest of political dissidents and undermining of democracy - but recommended the US continue sending an annual $1.3 billion in mostly military aid to Cairo.

The report, quietly submitted to lawmakers last month, said that while Egypt had implemented some democratic reforms, "the overall trajectory of rights and democracy has been negative".

The six-page report, which the administration is required to send to Congress, said human rights and civil activists had reported a "steadily shrinking space for political dissent" that has prompted them to censor their activities or leave the country.

An estimated 16,000 people were arrested on political charges by Egyptian authorities between July 2013 and March of this year.

Some are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, while others were arrested for violating a demonstration law that the Obama administration says is not aligned with international standards for protecting freedom of assembly.

The White House further expressed concern for Egypt's decision to expand the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians.

Human rights organisations say as many as 3,000 civilians have been tried in military courts since the decree took effect.