The chief assistant to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on Wednesday
with the head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, Washington’s
highest-level talks yet with the Islamist group that has dominated Egypt’s
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
confirmed that Burns had met with the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party
(FJP), along with several other party representatives, at its new headquarters
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“From our perspective, it was an opportunity to hear from them
and to reinforce our expectation that all the major parties will support human
rights, tolerance, rights of women and will also uphold Egypt’s existing
international obligations,” she said.
Burns arrived in the Egyptian
capital the day before and reportedly met with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi,
the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Washington modified a long-standing ban on formal contacts with the Brotherhood.
The administration has said it would pursue “limited contacts” and
“re-engagement” with the Brotherhood after the party took about 40 percent of
votes in parliamentary elections that followed the February overthrow of
longtime president Hosni Mubarak.
Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant
secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, has already met with the FJP’s
Burns did not meet on Wednesday with the hard-line
Salafist Islamist party that came in second in parliamentary voting.
was not able to meet with all of the parties, so this was a selective group of
some of them,” Nuland said, adding that the Salafists had not been
“This was a chance to get to know some of the people that he
wanted to get to know.”
Egypt’s staggered three-stage parliamentary
election began on November 28 and drew an unprecedented turnout. The lower house
will hold its first session on January 23.
Nuland said that Burns also
met senior Egyptian officials to discuss recent government raids on US-backed
non-governmental organizations that Washington has called
“He reaffirmed our strong support [for the groups],”
“He also pushed hard with the government to try to resolve
the remaining problems and we do think we are making some headway, but we have
not yet resolved all the issues.”
Reuters contributed to this report.