A day before Eid celebrations, no end in sight for government-Brotherhood crisis

Ahram Online, Reuters, Wednesday 7 Aug 2013

In a televised speech on the eve of Eid Fitr, Egypt's interim president said that ongoing attempts to end violence had failed; Wasat Party agrees to talk; western officials call for peaceful solutions

Morsi vs Mansour

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour said in a televised speech on Wednesday night that all diplomatic efforts to end violence and bloodshed in Egypt have failed, referring to negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood to end the 6-week standoff that kept the country on edge since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

“Some think they are able to stop history from moving...or to challenge your will for a deserved promising future. This will never happen,” said Mansour in a televised speech aired on the eve of the Islamic festival of Eid Al-Fitr, which starts on Thursday.

Mansour added that steps toward drafting a new constitution are already being taken as 50 members of the committee tasked with amending the national charter have been chosen and announced on Wednesday.

The 2012 constitution was suspended on 3 July as part of the army-backed roadmap that ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

“We are certain that we will overcome what we’re facing and will move towards a bright and promising future,” Mansour said.

"We need to rise above our interests and to unite over a common goal," he added.

Regarding the diplomatic efforts taken to solve the current dispute between the interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, Mansour reaffirmed that the efforts have not met their goal, in spite of being given full support by the government.

“Egypt will always welcome the efforts of these [foreign] parties and values their stance in support of the road map and enhance democratic transition,” he said referring to foreign delegations that recently visited Egypt to facilitate negotiations with the Brotherhood.

He further warned that “whoever doesn’t realise the current decisive moment" will be responsible for the consequences of this decision.

A number of foreign officials have visited Cairo for talks in recent weeks, as tensions continue to mount between the new military-backed government and the supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi who are demonstrating against what they describe as the “military coup” that ended his presidency.

Earlier on Wednesday, Egypt's presidency announced that talks between foreign delegates and the Muslim Brotherhood had failed, adding that the Brotherhood and its allies bear "full responsibility for the failure and what will follow."

"Diplomatic efforts ended today. The state gave room for all necessary efforts to be exhausted in order to urge the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to reject violence, prevent bloodshed and cease the disruption of Egyptian society by holding its future hostage," the presidency's statement read adding that the Brotherhood and its allies bear "full responsibility for the failure and what will follow."

Prime Minister Beblawi warns Brotherhood

Earlier in the day, Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi said that the decision to disperse sit-ins held by supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi is final, calling on protesters to leave the sit-ins as quickly as possible during an Egypt cabinet press conference.

El-Beblawi added that the government will provide free transportation for those leaving the two pro-Morsi sit-ins at Cairo's Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque and Gaza's Nahda square.

He also stated that the sit-ins had not been dispersed earlier out of respect for the holy month of Ramadan, which ends Wednesday.

El-Beblawi warned Morsi supporters against the use of violence towards security forces, saying such actions will be immediately met with force.

He also emphasised that only those who have committed crimes will be arrested.

Morsi allies change course

In a change of heart, Hussein Zayed deputy secretary general of the Wasat party, a 1990s splinter group from the Brotherhood and a close ally to the deposed president, told Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Wednesday that their party agreed to meet with Vice President for International Affairs Mohamed ElBaradei, in an attempt to find a way out of the current political deadlock.

The party, Zayed said, will enter into negotiations with only one precondition: the solution to the deadlock must be political and peaceful.

Zayed denied claims that his party intends to propose the same initiative that was proposed recently by Islamist figure Selim El-Awa as a base for negotiations, saying that the meeting will be held without any preconditions.

Islamist thinker and former presidential candidate El-Awa, who is known to be close to the Wasat Party, proposed an initiative in late July by which Morsi would delegate his powers to a new interim cabinet which would replace the current interim government. Parliamentary elections would be called within 60 days, according to that effort.

The initiative was adopted by the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, of which the Wasat Party is a member.

Egypt's transitional government has called on the Brotherhood and their allies to join national reconciliation talks but the group has rejected the invitation, insisting instead on Morsi's reinstatement.

Western officials criticise Egyptian government

Meanwhile, Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, who was in Cairo for talks, said the 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.

"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," Timmermans told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

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."

The US state department for its part affirmed on Wednesday that there is still time for dialogue adding that ending Egypt’s political crisis will require compromise.

"We believe that any solution will require both sides to make compromises," Psaki told a briefing. "These decisions can only be made by Egyptians for Egyptians. We certainly hope they will make them soon," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psak

Psaki said Washington was concerned with the statement from the army-installed government that said the talks had failed, adding: "Now is not the time to assess blame but to initiate a dialogue that can help restore calm for the long term."

She added that talks in Cairo with envoys from the United States, European Union, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates provided a "strong basis to create an environment in which Egypt can move forward."

US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also released a joint statement expressing their concern with failure of breaking stalemate between political factions in Egypt.

"While further violent confrontations have thus far been avoided, we remain concerned and troubled that government and opposition leaders have not yet found a way to break a dangerous stalemate and agree to implement tangible confidence building measures,"

"This remains a very fragile situation, which holds not only the risk of more bloodshed and polarization in Egypt, but also impedes the economic recovery which is so essential for Egypt's successful transition," the US-EU statement added.

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