Brotherhood and US Meet About Women, Israel and Copts in Egypt

Article Summary
The US Secretary of State has been communicating with the Brotherhood over the past few days, Mansour Kamel reports. The discusions center on the Brotherhood’s vision for the future of relations between Egypt and Israel, how it will deal with the Copts, women’s rights and the roles of key ministries in the new Egyptian government.

A Muslim Brotherhood official said that the US has secretly been communicating with the Brotherhood over the past few days. The US has focused on four main issues in its discussions:

  1. The Brotherhood’s ideological stance toward Israel and its vision for the future of relations between Egypt and Israel
  2. The Brotherhood’s stance toward supporting the Hamas government and its vision in how to deal with the Copts and their rights in Egypt
  3. The Brotherhood’s stance on women’s rights
  4. The formation of a new government in Egypt and the potentially different roles for key ministries such as the ministries of defense, interior and foreign affairs

In a statement to Al-Masry al-Youm, the Brotherhood official said, “In her latest visit to Cairo, [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton wanted the Brotherhood’s opinions and views regarding these four main issues. The Brotherhood’s views are especially important now it rules Egypt and Mohammed Morsi is the president of the republic. The Brotherhood will also most likely dominate the future government, just as it controlled the dissolved parliament.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said that Clinton demanded to be informed of the Brotherhood’s final stance regarding the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. The Muslim leaders’ reply was clear: they respect the agreement, but they believe it needs to be modified.

“This issue has been a major cause of contention between the two parties. Clinton demanded the Brotherhood clearly state and declare that Israel has the right to establish a state on its territories. The Brotherhood rejected this demand,” said the Brotherhood official.

He continued: “The Brotherhood leadership stated that although they respect the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, they will not take any stance that is in direct conflict with the Brotherhood’s ideology. Clinton then inquired about their stance toward Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood replied that they support the Palestinian people as a whole, not just Hamas. They believe that the Palestinians have the right to establish a state on their territories, with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Clinton also inquired into the Brotherhood’s stance on the formation of a new government, and their positions on the key ministries of “interior, defense and foreign affairs.” The Brotherhood said that the role of these ministries — particularly the Ministry of Defense — will be under negotiation.

The official said that the Muslim Brotherhood’s responses in this regard made Clinton uncomfortable. The US administration is fearful of the prospect of the Brotherhood having the right to mobilize the Egyptian army and deploy it near the Israeli borders. The US administration also expressed its desire that key ministries be kept under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) control, rather than the control of the Brotherhood.

The official added that this issue has specifically accounted for much of the debate between Clinton, Field Marshal Tantawi and the SCAF’s leaders. The Secretary of State conveyed the US' concern about the Brotherhood’s uncertain stance on Israel. Clinton also expressed that Washington prefers that the key ministries remain under SCAF control in order to avoid any potential tension between Egypt and Israel.

Regarding the Brotherhood’s stance on the conditions of the Copts, the US demanded the Brotherhood approve the establishment of a Coptic university, along the lines of Al-Azhar University. The Brotherhood rejected this suggestion on the grounds that establishing such a university would nurture sectarianism in Egypt. Moreover, Al-Azhar University has existed for decades.

However, regarding the issue of Coptic rights, the Muslim Brotherhood reassured the US by agreeing that the Copts may address their personal status based on their own religious customs. They also approved a unified law for all Coptic houses of worship and on allocating official positions to Coptic officials.

Regarding the issue of women’s rights, the Muslim Brotherhood confirmed that women will not be marginalized during their reign. They assured the US that they will respect and preserve women’s rights and freedoms and will also maintain all the gains that women have so far achieved.

Found in: stance, position, palestine, muslim brotherhood, muslim, mohammed morsi, ministry of defense, hillary clinton, hamas, danger

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