Egypt's president met with party leaders on Monday (Photo: Courtesy of Egypt's presidency)
Political party leaders who attended a joint meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Monday, the first such talks since he became president, said El-Sisi had called on political parties to unite.
The two-day talks were abruptly announced on Sunday, and party leaders were issued invitations to attend but not given a specific agenda.
The talks will continue on Tuesday.
Head of the right-of-centre Conference Party, Omar El-Mokhtar Semeida, said that the meeting tackled several issues, including the coming parliamentary elections.
El-Sisi said he would favour a “national party list" promising that he would back it if it will bring political parties together, Semeida told Al-Ahram Arabic website.
El-Sisi also responded to concerns that the party electoral list of former prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri might be backed by the government, assuring that the state backs no specific party or list.
In November, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab met with the Egyptian Front, a coalition which joined ranks in a party list led by El-Ganzouri, to "learn about the opinion of the party regarding the election."
In a statement released by the Salafist Nour Party, party head Younis Makhioun explained that the Egyptian president urged parties to stay united to face the "dangers that meet the country." The Salafist figure added that "this requires that there will be no exclusion."
The Nour Party is the only Islamist party that supported the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent political roadmap.
Makhioun stressed during the meeting the necessity that the state stay neutral during the coming elections and avoid backing a particular political current.
President of the leftist Tagamoa Party Sayed Abdel-Al told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that the president had assured there would be no interference with the process of the polls, scheduled to start in March.
Abdel-Al told Al-Ahram the president insisted he needed no political backer "because he is not building an autocratic system, but is preserving the Egyptian state with the Egyptian people."
The head of the Reform and Development Party, Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, said he discussed several issues with the president including opening political space for the youth, the freedom of NGOs to work, and the restrictive protest law, which he said El-Sisi assured could be amended in the upcoming parliament.
The president also expressed his care for the safety and freedoms of university students, El-Sadat told Al-Ahram.
Egyptian universities have seen numerous clashes since Morsi’s ouster, with hundreds of student protesters arrested or expelled.
The party talks also included representatives from the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the liberal Constitution party, Wafd Party and the right-of-centre Free Egyptians Party as well as the National Movement Party, founded by former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
The Nasserist Al-Karama Party intends to attend the talks on Tuesday, and will discuss the parliamentary elections law and the protest law, which it takes issue with, party member Heba Yassin told Ahram Online.
The Strong Egypt Party declined to join the talks.
"We support any call for dialogue or meetings that will serve the best interest of Egypt, yet this urgent presidential invitation for dialogue comes late, after issuing and ratifying all laws related to the parliamentary elections," spokesman Ahmed Emam told Ahram Online.
Party leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, a former leading member in the Muslim Brotherhood who left the organisation in 2011, was invited to the meeting but won’t attend.
"The rushed invitation did not specify any agenda or topics that are going to be discussed," added Emam, stressing at the same that the party welcomes any calls for dialogue and meetings based on a serious agenda and not simply for "media show."
The Strong Egypt party has been strongly critical of the ouster of Morsi in July 2013 and Egypt’s political transition, and repeatedly condemned "violations of human rights" since Morsi’s ouster.
The parliamentary elections will take place in two stages, the first in March and the second in April.