Friday, July 1, 2011

U.S. will start contacts with Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

The leadership of the new party of the Muslim Brotherhood, The Freedom and Justice Party. From the left: Mohammed al-Mursi, Essam al-Erian and Mohammed al-Katatni.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood says that it welcomes formal contacts with the United States as a way to clarify its institutional vision. But no such contacts have yet been made, a spokesman for the Islamist group said on Thursday.
A senior US official said on Wednesday that the United States had decided to resume formal contacts with the Brotherhood, a step that reflects its growing political weight but is almost certain to upset Israel and its US backers.
“We welcome such relationships with everyone because those relations will lead to clarifying our vision. But it won’t include or be based on any intervention in the internal affairs of the country,” a spokesman for the Brotherhood, Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, told Reuters.
“Until now no contacts have been made with the group or the party,” said Mr. Katatni, who is also secretary general of the Brotherhood’s new Freedom and Justice party. “This relationship will clarify our general views and our opinion about different issues.”
Under the previous policy, US diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents − a diplomatic strategy that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.
Former US officials and analysts said the Obama administration had little choice but to engage the Brotherhood directly, given its political prominence after the February 11 downfall of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in Washington. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”
The new party of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), will most probably get a leading role in the yet to be elected Egyptian parliament where it will contest 50% of the seats. That in itself is en good development, I think. In a democracy all parties and sections of society should have a say. The FJP no doubt will be a very conservative party and - used as it is to survive in quasi clandestine circumstances - it t has yet to prove that it is able to adapt itself to real democratic circumstances. That the U.S. now is ready to engage in contacts with the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) is a welcome development. It might even be a step on the way to more open dialogues with other islamic parties in the region, like for instance Hamas - although at present that may still seem a very unikely possibility.     

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