The European Union’s foreign policy chief called for a political process in Egypt that includes all parties, as supporters and opponents of ex-President Mohamed Mursi failed to agree on steps to end the past month’s turmoil.
Catherine Ashton became the first foreign official to meet Mursi after his July 3 ouster by the army. She said the Islamist leader was well and “we were able to talk about the need to move forward.” Mursi has been held in an undisclosed location, and Ashton said she didn’t know where the meeting occurred.
The EU diplomat also held talks with Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi and officials from the interim government backed by the army. She told a press conference in Cairo that she had urged all sides “to think very carefully about how you include everybody” in Egypt’s political future.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood calls his removal a coup against an elected leader and vowed to maintain protests until he’s restored to office. Security forces killed dozens of pro-Mursi demonstrators last weekend and authorities threaten a further crackdown to end sit-ins by Islamists. Nationwide violence has left scores dead, mostly Brotherhood supporters, and undermined the government’s calls for reconciliation.
Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s vice president in the interim government, ruled out a role for Mursi in Egypt during a press conference with Ashton, while allowing one for his group. “Mursi failed but the Brotherhood very much continues to be part of the political process,” he said.
A pro-Mursi coalition made up of Brotherhood members and other Islamist parties said after its meeting with Ashton last night that it rejected a political engagement that wasn’t based on “adhering to constitutional legitimacy” by reinstating Mursi.
Egypt’s army-backed administration accuses the Brotherhood of inciting violence to portray itself as a victim.
Ashton extended her stay in Cairo until today to hold more meetings, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, without giving details.
It’s “somewhat odd that it is the mostly toothless EU that makes the first public try at reconciliation,” said Paul Sullivan, a specialist in Middle East security issues at Georgetown University in Washington. “Unfortunately, in this environment of increasing tensions and heated anger, it likely will prove to be just a try. It is unlikely the Brotherhood will back down.”
Yields on Egypt’s benchmark Eurobonds due in 2020 fell four basis points to 8.68 percent at 4:07 p.m. in Cairo today, after reaching a three-week high yesterday. The benchmark stock index rose 0.8 percent, snapping a four-day decline.
“We welcome any efforts as long as they don’t touch the legitimacy of the president,” said Hamza Zawba, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm.
“If we hear solutions that could be built on, we will talk,” Zawba said. If Mursi supporters continue to suffer “deaths and injuries, then I think we don’t have any option except for steadfastness and to hold onto our legitimacy.”
Last weekend’s violence followed the killing of more than 50 Islamists by security forces on July 8. The pro-Mursi camp has called for rallies today. It’s also maintaining a sit-in in Cairo’s Nasr City district, which Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has warned will be dispersed “very soon.”
The mounting death toll has sparked international concerns. Amnesty International said security forces “resorted to lethal force, with complete disregard for human life,” and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest.
Egypt’s judiciary on July 26 ordered Mursi’s detention for 15 days in relation to accusations of conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas in murders, abductions, jailbreaks and other attacks on the country’s security buildings.
The Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have been targeted with arrest warrants and asset freezes. Essam Sultan and Abul-Ela Madi of the Islamist Wasat Party were arrested in the latest crackdown, the state-run Ahram Gate website reported.
The military has also pledged to step up operations against militants in the Sinai peninsula, where attacks on security forces have escalated since Mursi’s fall. Two Egyptian policemen were killed and another wounded in two separate attacks by unidentified gunmen in northern Sinai, the Interior Ministry said early today.