Diplomatic mediation failed to break Egypt's political deadlock because the country's new rulers see no point in talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, but they will have to do so eventually, the visiting Dutch foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Frans Timmermans was in Cairo for talks with the authorities and opposition parties on the day international efforts to facilitate a compromise collapsed, five weeks after the army ousted elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Asked why diplomacy had failed, Timmermans told Reuters in a telephone interview: "Having spoken to the interim president, the prime minister and the foreign minister, my impression is that they simply see no merit at this stage in talking to the Muslim Brotherhood."
Noting that local media had denounced foreign interference in Egypt's affairs, he said: "Whether there is foreign mediation or not, they will have to come to terms with the fact that they have to talk to the Brotherhood, and better sooner than later."
Timmermans voiced concern at the prospect of violence, saying it was clear that tensions were mounting and that as more people turn to the streets to protest, "the tendency in the armed forces to repress that will mount, and that is certainly not going to de-escalate the situation".
Asked whether the European Union should suspend aid to the military-backed government, he said little EU aid had been delivered for some time because the country did not comply with International Monetary Fund criteria.
It was hard to see how other Arab countries could succeed in their transition towards democracy if Egypt failed, he said.
"What I see here in Egypt is a knee-jerk reflex in some parts of the political system where people have a feeling of nostalgia for the past, and not just in the military but also in parts of the Muslim Brotherhood, which might feel more at ease in their traditional comfort zone of not being part of the political system but being outside the system," he added.
Egypt's transition would take a long time and there was still hope that democracy and human rights could take root over time, he said, especially given signs that a younger generation in the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to stay in the political arena.