Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour vowed to press ahead with the government’s plans, sending a warning to backers of ousted President Mohamed Mursi that “those who stay behind will bear the consequences.”
Signaling that a crackdown on two main opposition sit-ins in Cairo squares may be imminent, Mansour said in a televised speech last night that “the train of the future has taken off” and “all of us have to catch it.”
Mansour spoke hours after his office said in a statement that international mediators had failed in efforts to end the military imposed government’s standoff with Mursi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood. Top diplomats for the U.S. and European Union rejected that assessment and went beyond past statements in singling out the government for criticism.
“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,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a joint statement. “The Egyptian government bears a special responsibility to begin this process to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens.”
Describing what they called some of their “practical ideas,” Kerry and Ashton said the proposals included public statements condemning violence, “steps to scale down and ease tensions surrounding the ongoing demonstrations” and “immediately beginning the process of releasing detained political figures.”
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. The State Department confirmed yesterday that its emissary, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, had returned to Washington.
The statement from the Egyptian presidency said the diplomatic efforts “have not achieved the hoped-for results” and that the government would hold the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for “breaking the law and endangering social peace.”
The 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 in Cairo, said by phone. “It was very much expected that this round of talks wouldn’t work because there’s a deadlock here.”
Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi told reporters the decision to break up the Muslim Brotherhood’s sit-ins was “final,” while the Brotherhood said it had no intention of calling off its protests.
“What else are they going to do?” Hamza Zawba, spokesman for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said of the government. “They’ve already committed massacres against our people, jailed our leaders and members. They have nothing left to do.”
He said Mursi’s supporters are “sticking to our position: no talks before the legitimate president, constitution and Shura council are reinstated.”
At least 130 Mursi loyalists were killed by security forces in Cairo 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 early yesterday and late in the previous day in Cairo, Alexandria and Beheira provinces left at least one person dead and 62 injured, the state-run Middle East News agency reported.
Government’s Road Map
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.
Mursi’s removal by the military compounded frictions that have risen 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.