The news that President Obama will meet with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in September prompted an array of speculations in Washington and Cairo, attempting to decipher the political significance of the upcoming encounter.
While Morsi’s party views the meeting as a chance to solidify his international standing, White House press secretary Jay Carney downplayed it as a mere “encounter” for Obama, The Hill reported.
“Well, the president will be going to UNGA, the United Nations General Assembly, in September, and he will, I’m sure, encounter a number of leaders — after all, that’s a gathering of world leaders — including the new Egyptian president there,” Carney said. “There are no planned bilateral meetings in Washington around UNGA with any leader.”
Carney said Obama “looks forward” to meeting Morsi when the U.N. General Assembly reconvenes in September, but emphasized that no one-on-one talks are scheduled to take place.
Carney’s remarks, however, contradict those of Egyptian aide Yasser Ali, who reportedly declared that Obama had “extended an invitation” for Morsi to visit the United States.
The cautious approach by the administration reflects the unease that some lawmakers feel regarding the Muslim Brotherhood.
A handful of GOP lawmakers immediately called for ending America’s $1.3 billion annual military assistance to Egypt after Morsi won the presidency in June.
“The Arab Spring is nothing more than a radical Islamic nightmare,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) wrote on Facebook.
The extent of Morsi’s power is also an open question, following the Egyptian military’s decision to disband parliament and prevent the formation of a new government.
One analyst said the Obama administration is walking a difficult line, trying to signal support for a democratically elected leader without offending the Egyptian military, which remains in control “for the moment and for the foreseeable future,” according to The Hill.