German Ambassador to Egypt Michael Bock has clarified his country's position during a small press meeting attended by Ahram Online Wednesday at the German Embassy in Cairo following a contentious statement made by the German foreign ministry calling for the release of deposed president Mohamed Morsi.
The statement was widely condemned among Egyptians amidst ongoing political upheaval between supporters and opponents of Morsi’s removal.
"We call for an end to the restrictions on Mr Morsi's whereabouts and suggest a trusted institution be granted access to Morsi," stated a German foreign ministry spokesman Friday, identifying the International Committee of the Red Cross as a credible body for the task.
Ambassador Bock reiterated the same sentiments on Morsi's detention and the intervention of a trustworthy institution. The ambassador highlighted that the ministry's statement was selectively quoted and that important parts of its statement were disregarded by the media.
When questioned on the rationale behind seeking Morsi's release, Ambassador Bock said that unwarranted political arrests of Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood figures would further alienate the Islamist organisation and push it underground. Such isolation would likely harden their heroic status among supporters, which may have dangerous repercussions.
"Morsi's release is useful for the country's re-democratisation. The judiciary should rapidly determine a verdict. Is there a case against him or not?" Bock asked, elaborating that the German government is yet to get a response from the prosecutor general in this regard, adding that using judicial channels as a means to exact political revenge would be unwise.
EU calls for inclusive approach
The European Union appears to be adopting a similar stance with regards to Morsi's release. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, announced prior to her arrival in Egypt on Tuesday: "I am going to Egypt to reinforce our message that there must be a fully inclusive political process, taking in all groups that support democracy."
Ashton met with Interim President Adly Mansour and General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, defence minister and head of the army, as well as Nabil Fahmy, the newly-appointed foreign minister.
She also met with officials from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, Amr Darrag, former minister of planning and international cooperation, and Mohammed Ali Beshr, who served as minister of state for local development until 3 July 2013 — the day of Morsi's ouster.
The EU's role in moderating reconciliation efforts between political currents was the focus of discussions, as well as the release of Morsi.
In terms of defining the ouster of Morsi, which followed millions taking to the streets 30 June calling for early presidential elections, Ambassador Bock said that the events of 3 July have not been classified as a "coup d'etat" by the German government.
"Although the foreign minister had said this was a setback for democracy, owing to the military's intervention, it was nonetheless never labelled as a coup d'etat," Bock told Ahram Online, preferring to refer to 30 June as "the second wave of the January 25 Revolution" and "a manifestation of the will of the Egyptian people."
In his government's further defence, Bock drew attention to a statement made by German President Joachim Gauck that was not quoted by the papers, which stated that under volatile conditions where civil war is a risk, extraordinary measures must be taken.
Gauck also voiced Germany's willingness to support a new democratic order in Egypt; such statements contradict claims in the media of bias, suggested Ambassador Bock.
"We are watching and trying to help Egypt on its difficult way," he pledged, whilst conceding that the path to democracy is going to be a long and "bumpy" one, as revolutions take time to unfold.
'We liaise with all sides'
Reconciliation is key, stressed Bock, so as to end the suffering of the Egyptian people. Order and economic progress need to be re-established. Different factions need to be involved in the democratic process, he said.
"We liaise with all sides: the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, the leftists and liberals, etc," he added.
The military and judiciary are aware of the need for reconciliation, maintained the ambassador, intimating trust in the military's involvement in the political process, stressing that retaining power would not be in its interests. Time needs to be given and criticism of the army limited, urged the ambassador, to enable it to continue what has been started.
The importance of the Muslim Brotherhood's continued political inclusion was underlined by Bock, based on the organisation's popularity amongst the poor and due to its long standing role as a welfare provider during the Mubarak era.
The German diplomat nevertheless admitted that Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule was marred by many errors. One of the major mistakes made by Morsi, he highlighted, related to his promise to allow ample time to debate the new constitution whilst instead unexpectedly rushing the process to a vote. Such actions indicated a clear disregard of the democratic process.
Yet, in spite of such mistakes, and recent events, Bock reinforced the importance of the Muslim Brotherhood not turning its back on democracy and re-joining political life.
Criticism concerning Interim President Mansour Adly's recent constitutional declaration was described by Bock as expected given the time constraint Adly was under in making the declaration. Nonetheless, the German ambassador optimistically asserted that such criticism can now be constructively voiced as part of the new democratic process.