Egypt’s prime minister warned backers of ousted President Mohamed Mursi to end their sit-ins after the presidency said international efforts to mediate the standoff failed, signaling a crackdown may be imminent.
The government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood that fielded Mursi for office for the failed diplomatic mission and said it would hold it responsible for the consequences that may result from “breaking the law and endangering social peace.” The Brotherhood said its protests would continue.
Envoys from the U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab states had flown to Cairo to try to help ease the crisis triggered by the military’s July 3 removal of Mursi following mass protests against him.
“These efforts have not realized the hoped-for success,” the presidency said in a statement received today. Hours later, Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi told reporters the decision to break up their sit-ins in two main Cairo squares was “final.”
In televised remarks, El Beblawi warned demonstrators against thinking that the Cabinet’s observance of the “sanctity” of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends this week, meant it had dropped its earlier demand to clear the sites.
The Brotherhood said it would not back down.
“What else are they going to do?” asked Hamza Zawba, spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. “They’ve already committed massacres against our people, jailed our leaders and members. They have nothing left to do.”
At least 130 Mursi loyalists were killed by security forces in Cairo alone during clashes last month. The potential for violence grew after the government warned it will take action against the sit-ins in two main Cairo squares.
Clashes late yesterday and early today in Cairo, Alexandria and Beheira provinces left at least one person dead and 62 injured, the state-run Middle East News agency reported.
The presidency’s statement “is a very final warning from the government that they’ve run out of diplomatic as well as political options, and what’s left is violence,” Ziad Akl, senior analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said by phone. “It was very much expected that this round of talks wouldn’t work, because there’s a deadlock here.”
Yesterday, Egyptian authorities denounced “foreign pressure” and said “Egypt is capable of protecting the revolution and the state,” according to Ahmed El-Meslemani, media adviser to interim President Adly Mansour.
Government officials have repeatedly said they will push ahead with a political road map that includes parliamentary and presidential elections next year. The Brotherhood says the blueprint follows from a “coup” and refuses to recognize it.
“The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended today,” the presidential statement said. The state “allowed” such endeavors to try “to exhaust the necessary efforts to urge the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to renounce violence,” the statement said. Egypt “will always welcome the efforts of these parties,” it added.
Mursi’s supporters will “stand firm,” said Zawba, the Freedom and Justice Party spokesman.
“We’re sticking to our position: no talks before the legitimate president, constitution and Shura council are reinstated,” he said.
El Beblawi, the prime minister, accused the protesters of inciting violence and urged them to “swiftly” vacate the sit-ins where thousands have gathered. The government’s decision to end the sit-ins was final, he said.
“The Cabinet warns against the continuation of the dangerous escalation and the incitement of those misled by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, which threatens the safety of the homeland,” he told reporters in Cairo in televised comments.
The government’s impatience with the sit-ins have sparked fears that violence would flare if security forces were to move in to break up the protests.
Mursi’s removal by the military compounded frictions that have risen up since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011. Immediately after Mursi’s ouster, authorities began rounding up Islamist political leaders and freezing their assets. His backers say the moves undermine reconciliation efforts. The government denies its measures are politically motivated.
The prospect of further unrest in the Arab world’s most-populous nation has spurred international concerns, including in the U.S., which has had close ties to Egypt’s military for three decades.
The presidency’s statement comes a day after visiting U.S. Senator John McCain said he called for the release “of political prisoners” and a national dialogue “inclusive of all parties that renounce the use of violence.”