Egypt Diplomats Try to Broker Peace Amid ProtestsSalma El Wardany and Nicole Gaouette
Egypt denounced “foreign pressure” as U.S. and European diplomats seek to broker an end to the deadly political crisis triggered by the military’s ouster of President Mohamed Mursi.
Supporters of Mursi, the Islamist president toppled on July 3, have refused to end street protests demanding his reinstatement, even as authorities threaten to disperse them. At least 130 Mursi supporters were killed by security forces in Cairo last month, and there have been clashes throughout the country.
“Foreign pressure has exceeded international norms and Egypt is capable of protecting the revolution and the state,” Ahmed El-Meslemani, media adviser to interim President Adly Mansour, said in an e-mailed statement.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and European Union special envoy Bernardino Leon, along with Gulf Arab officials, are in Cairo for a diplomatic push that reflects growing international concern over the political deadlock.
The army-backed interim government has repeatedly warned that time is running out for the Islamist protesters to end their sit-ins, saying they are undermining efforts to restore stability and rebuild the economy.
Mansour said on Aug. 4 that the protests can’t be allowed to go on for much longer. “If it’s possible to disperse it peacefully, we will do so,” he said. “If not, then the state can’t watch this happen with its hands tied.”
The National Coalition for Legitimacy, an Islamist group made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and other backers of Mursi, said any measures to ease the crisis should begin with reinstating the deposed president and revoking the suspension of the constitution.
The group also called in an e-mailed statement today for the release of all political detainees, and an urgent investigation into “massacres” of peaceful demonstrators. Some Islamist leaders were arrested on charges of inciting violence following Mursi’s ouster.
Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and onetime opposition leader, urged the Muslim Brotherhood to work toward a peaceful solution. The Brotherhood shouldn’t count on manipulating the security forces into forcibly dispersing the sit-ins “so that a big massacre takes place, and so that you strengthen your position in negotiations,” ElBaradei said in an interview published in the independent al-Shorouk newspaper. “The trick will not work.”
Burns “continued his discussions with a wide range of Egyptians” in the past few days and will stay on for further talks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday. He said the talks, which included meetings with jailed leaders of the Brotherhood, focused on how to “calm tensions, avoid further violence and facilitate an inclusive democratic process.”
U.S. Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are also in Cairo, where they met Mansour and army chief Abdelfatah al-Seesi, who led Mursi’s overthrow.
The political turmoil since Mursi’s fall threatens to extend an economic slump that his one-year administration failed to reverse. Gross domestic product has been growing at the slowest pace in two decades.
Stocks and bonds rebounded after the army takeover, which followed mass protests calling for Mursi’s departure, as the new administration pledged to make the economy its priority. The benchmark equity index is up 13 percent since then. It extended gains today, adding 0.2. The yield on Eurobonds maturing in 2020 dropped 24 basis points to 8.41 percent at 3:30 p.m. in Cairo, more than 2 percentage points below its July 3 peak.
A loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund will be an “essential” part of efforts to revive growth, Planning Minister Ashraf El-Arabi said in a phone interview yesterday. He said the timing of a resumption of talks on a $4.8 billion loan, which have been repeatedly disrupted since 2011, is still under discussion.
The government said a day earlier it was told by Burns that the U.S., the IMF’s largest shareholder, supports the resumption of talks.