Turkey's ruling party denounces White House plan to designate MBrotherhood

U.S. President Donald Trump is working to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation, which would bring the weight of sanctions against an Islamist movement with millions of members and possibly further inflame relations with Turkey, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

After a visit early this month by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the White House directed officials to find a way to place sanctions on the group.

Turkey's ruling party AKP spokesperson Omer Celik, in a press conference on Tuesday reacted to reports that the U.S. is trying to designate Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organisation, said, "If you designate an organisation like Muslim Brotherhood which abides by the laws and stay away from the violence, then you make the room for ISIS. Of course this will be a problem for the U.S. and the middle east, " according to pro-government newspaper Hurriyet.

In a private meeting, Sisi urged Trump to take the next step and join Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates in branding the movement a terrorist organisation, and the president responded positively, according to the New York Times. Such a designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the group.

“The president has consulted with his national security team and leaders in the region who share his concern, and this designation is working its way through the internal process,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.

Officials said National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move, while the Pentagon, national security staff and government lawyers and diplomatic officials have voiced objections and are seeking a more limited step that would satisfy the White House, said the New York Times.

“Officials have argued that the criteria for designating a terrorist organisation are not a good fit for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is less a coherent body than a loose-knit movement with chapters in different countries that either use that moniker or have strong historical ties to it,” said the New York Times, referring to prominent political parties tied to the Brotherhood.

“Such a designation could have rippling consequences, including further stressing relations with Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is a staunch Brotherhood supporter,” the Times said.

A former general, Sisi helped lead a 2013 coup that deposed Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president and a former Muslim Brotherhood leader. The Egyptian government soon deemed the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation as part of a crackdown on its supporters, said the New York Times.  

Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders soon fled to Turkey, where Erdoğan’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power for 17 years.

“Whether the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts take place in Egypt or in Turkey or wherever it is in the world, President Trump’s been unambiguously clear terrorism, extremism in whatever form will be defeated,” Pompeo said in a February interview with Fox News.

Several Muslim Brotherhood-linked television stations now broadcast from Turkey, and a terrorist designation by the United States might force Turkey to take action on Brotherhood exiles.