Egypt crisis: Country takes a step closer to ‘all-out war’ as peace talks break down

Egypt crisis: Country takes a step closer to ‘all-out war’ as peace talks break down

 

Interim president blames ousted Muslim Brotherhood for failure

Alastair Beach

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Egyptians will celebrate one of the most significant days in the Muslim calendar this morning – but they will do so facing perhaps the gravest crisis since the fall of Hosni Mubarak two and a half years ago.

On the eve of the Eid al-Fitr festival, the holiday which marks the end of Ramadan, Egypt’s interim President, Adli Mansour, issued a bleak statement announcing that 10 days of talks to solve a dangerous impasse between supporters and opponents of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed leader, had failed.

The statement from Mr Mansour’s office declared that the Muslim Brotherhood – whose followers have been camped out in their thousands for more than a month on the streets of Cairo – was “fully responsible for the failure of these efforts”.

Following weeks of oscillation between threats of an anti-Islamist crackdown and gestures of apparent reconciliation, Mr Mansour’s words appeared to indicate that a state-led backlash against the Brotherhood might be imminent. “I’m sorry to say, but we’re closer to all-out war,” said Sherif Taher, a senior liberal politician.

A leading Brotherhood figure, speaking to The Independent, responded by calling the Egyptian authorities “vampires”. “They cannot satisfy their desire for blood,” said Essam el-Erian, the vice chairman of the Brotherhood’s political wing, who is currently wanted for arrest after prosecutors issued warrants for him and other Islamists.

He warned that the Egyptian government could “not imagine what would happen” if it tried to clear Mr Morsi’s supporters from the streets. But he added that Brotherhood protesters were peaceful and unarmed. “We don’t have anything. It will not be a battle. It will be a massacre,” he said.

Following the presidential statement, Egypt’s Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi announced on state television that a decision had been taken to clear the Brotherhood from its two Cairo encampments. The decision, he added, was “irreversible”.

The day’s developments came after a week-long flurry of shuttle diplomacy designed to halt Egypt’s slide into further civil unrest.

Envoys from Europe, Washington and the Gulf states have been criss-crossing Cairo in an effort to bridge the ostensibly insurmountable positions held by hardliners on both sides.

Supporters of Mr Morsi have publicly said that they will rejoin the transitional “road map” only once the toppled president is restored to power and the Morsi-sponsored constitution of 2012 is resurrected.

Their opponents, who engineered last month’s popular coup because of  fears of an Islamist autocracy, countered that such a move would be impossible. Amid the growing, media-fuelled climate of anti-Brotherhood loathing, many had increasingly come to reject the group altogether as a potential political partner.

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Ikbal Baraka, an Egyptian writer, told The Independent that Egyptians were following the lead of Margaret Thatcher’s famous dictum to the IRA that Britain would never negotiate with terrorists – a reference to the belief among many liberals that the Brotherhood is little more than a network of would-be Islamist militants. “The Egyptian people have changed,” she said. “They will not accept that we will be friends with the Brotherhood and bury the hatchet.”

In a sign of the uncompromising mood among many of the group’s opponents, John McCain – the one-time US presidential candidate who was in Egypt to offer mediation alongside fellow Senator Lindsey Graham – triggered angry reactions from politicians and talk show hosts when he used a televised press conference to call for the release of detained Islamists.

Responding to Mr McCain, who later told a US interviewer that he “didn’t know” the political crisis in Egypt was “this bad”, Ahmed Said, the chairman of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, said that viewers had felt “insulted” watching the senator. “I’m telling you these two guys do not understand what Egypt is about,” he said.

Graham, McCain Visit Egypt and Urge Negotiations, Not Civil War

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:34 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2013

Comments in post: Graham, McCain Visit Egypt and Urge Negotiations, Not Civil War 1

 

luncheons001 121410 445x292 Graham, McCain Visit Egypt and Urge Negotiations, Not Civil War

Sen. Lindsey Graham alluded to the first shots of the Civil War when speaking to reporters Tuesday in Egypt.

Appearing in Cairo, Graham and fellow Republican Sen. John McCain pushed for a non-violent solution to the current governing crisis in Egypt.

“When I say we’re not perfect messengers, we’re imperfect in America, we have the record to prove it. It was not into the 1920s until women could vote in our country. I’m 58 years old. The first time I went to school with an African-American child, I was in the sixth grade,” Graham said. “We had our own Civil War, it started in my state. Learn from our mistakes.”

Graham represents South Carolina, home of Fort Sumter.

“We’re imperfect messengers of democracy. America has more problems than I can take your time to describe. We’re not doing very well right now at home, but there’s always hope of it getting better. There’s always the hope of the next election,” Graham said at a news conference in Cairo.

 

According to the Egyptian government, the two senators were on a two-day trip to the country, where they were meeting with a number of top Egyptian officials, including Vice President for International Relations Mohamed ElBaradei and First Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the military.

Graham said that he and McCain made the August recess trip to Egypt at the request of President Barack Obama, as Graham had explained to reporters at the Capitol before departing.

“Please understand that Sen. McCain was defeated by Barack Obama in an election, but when President Obama asked Sen. McCain to come to Egypt and help, Sen. McCain said, ‘I’ll be glad to, Mr. President,’” Graham said. “I think Sen. McCain understands better than most: what happens in Egypt is going to determine the future of this region.

“In a democracy, you have to sit down and talk with each other, even though you may not like the person on the other side of the table. It is impossible to talk with somebody who’s in jail,” Graham continued. “That is not a sustainable model that will allow transition to occur.”

McCain was asked to define the term “coup” to explain why he is using it in reference to the past month in Egypt that led to the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected in 2012, but subsequently faced widespread opposition before being removed from office by the powerful Egyptian military.

“I’m not here to go through the dictionary,” the Arizona Republican said. “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.”

The use of the term has a particular significance for the United States, because the law bars aid in the event a “duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup.”

McCain and some other Congressional leaders have said the intent of the law is clear and that it should apply in the case of Egypt.

“We have to abide by American law,” McCain said, before adding that he and Graham worked against an effort to cut off foreign aid to Egypt led by Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. “We thought it would be exactly the wrong signal and the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.”

“I think that all parties should be part of a national dialogue. A national dialogue and conciliation is the only way to bring about peace in this country, but also in order to take part in that national dialogue, those parties should renounce the use of violence,” McCain said.

“We’re hoping and begging and pleading with the people of Egypt that they will look forward, not backward. That means releasing people from jail so they can negotiate. It means having a new constitution that people can ratify and new elections,” Graham said. “It is my hope and desire that we can get this problem resolved.”

Egypt says no concessions to Morsi supporters

 
 

Interim president declares end of foreign-led efforts to resolve political crisis and warns patience is wearing thin.

 
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013 21:13
 
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Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the “failure" of international talks aimed at resolving Egypt’s political crisis, and warned supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi that the government will not make any concessions to them.

“The train of the future has left the station," he said in a televised address on Wednesday night, marking the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. “It’s moving forward, and all of us have to catch it."

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Nasr City where pro-Morsi protests continue, said Mansour’s speech would not change what the protesters are doing.

He said there were worries about the possible next move of the government but that Morsi supporters were willing to resist military rule and “sacrifice".

“The most likely scenario is that the government makes some sort of besiegement around the sit-in areas," he said. “They might block the entrances, cut the water and food supplies. Nobody would expect a blood bath in here." our correspondent said.

Earlier, the presidency announced the end of foreign-led efforts to resolve the turmoil, which has been spiralling since the army toppled Morsi on July 3.

In a statement carried on state news agency MENA, it said: “The Egyptian state … holds the Muslim Brotherhood fully responsible for the failure of those efforts [by foreign envoys] and what may be the consequences of this failure."

 

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawy warned, meanwhile, that the government’s decision to clear the ongoing pro-Morsi protests is “final," and urged demonstrators to leave, saying they had “broken all the limits of peacefulness".

“The government’s patience to bear this is nearly expired," he said, adding that any use of weapons against policemen or citizens would “be confronted with utmost force and decisiveness."

‘Need to be worried’

All of this follows a call by Qatar’s foreign minister, Khaled al-Attiya, to release members of the Muslim Brotherhood from jail, and come amid visits to Cairo by US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

Foreign envoys from America, Europe, Africa and several Gulf Arab states have been visiting Egypt in the past month, with little success.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, US secretary of state John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they “remain ready to help in any way that we can."

“The Egyptian government bears a special responsibility to begin this process to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens," the two added.

“What I see is that confrontation is mounting and that more people will turn to the streets to protest and the tendency in the armed forces to repress that will mount," said Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, the latest foreign official to visit Cairo.

“So I think there’s need to be worried about the next days and weeks," he said.

Thousands of pro-Morsi protesters have camped out in Cairo, demanding the reinstatement of the leader, and rejecting proposals by the interim leadership.

They say that several of their political leaders have been detained illegally, including Morsi himself.

Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the overthrow, including 80 Morsi supporters shot dead by security forces in a single incident on July 27.

The EU’s foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton and an African Union delegate, former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare, both managed to secure meetings with Morsi and reported he was in good health.

On August 1, the interim leadership first warned those protesting that it had authorised police to break up rallies in “gradual steps."

 
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
7 August 2013 Last updated at 23:22 GMT

Egypt crisis: US-EU call to end ‘dangerous stalemate’

Barricade outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. 7 Aug 2013 Barricades have been strengthened at pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo

The US and the European Union have called on all sides in Egypt’s political crisis to end “a dangerous stalemate" after the interim government said foreign mediation had failed.

In a joint statement, they said the Egyptian government bore a special responsibility to begin this process.

The army-backed government says it will break up sit-ins in Cairo being held by supporters of ousted President Morsi.

Scores have died in unrest since Mohammed Morsi was ousted on 3 July.

Since then, diplomats from the US, EU, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have all tried to bring Egypt’s political process back on track.

But on Wednesday the office of interim President Adly Mansour declared in a statement that the “phase of diplomatic efforts has ended today".

“These efforts have not achieved the hoped-for results," said the statement.

The presidency said it held the Muslim Brotherhood – which backs Mr Morsi – “completely responsible for the failure of these efforts".

Interim president Adly Mansour makes TV address. 7 Aug 2013 Adly Mansour, Egypt’s interim president, addressed the nation on TV

The government statement came hours after US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns left Egypt following several days of mediation talks. He was assisted by EU envoy Bernardino Leon.

Shortly afterwards, US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a joint statement.

“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," they said.

“The Egyptian government bears a special responsibility to begin this process to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens," the statement continued.

“This remains a very fragile situation, which holds not only the risk of more bloodshed and polarisation in Egypt, but also impedes the economic recovery which is so essential for Egypt’s successful transition.

“Now is not the time to assess blame, but to take steps that can help initiate a dialogue and move the transition forward."

Barricades

Correspondents say Cairo is tense after interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi said the government’s determination to break up the two protest camps was “final and irreversible".

Any use of weapons against police would meet “utmost force and decisiveness," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Morsi’s supporters outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in the suburb of Nasr City, and in Nahda Square, near the campus of Cairo University in Giza, have strengthened barricades in readiness for any action by security forces, witnesses say.

Interim authorities have repeatedly asked Brotherhood supporters to end the sit-ins in Cairo. Diplomats have voiced concerns about the possible use of force to break up the protests.

Violence has also been reported between Mr Morsi’s supporters and residents in the city of Alexandria.

Mr Morsi – Egypt’s first democratically elected president – is under arrest at an undisclosed location. Several other senior figures from the Muslim Brotherhood have also been detained.

August 7, 2013

Egypt Government Hints at Force to End Large Sit-Ins

By

CAIRO — Egypt’s military-appointed government said on Wednesday that it was giving up negotiating an end to a five-week-old standoff with the Islamist backers of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, hinting that it might forcibly disperse tens of thousands of them from two sit-ins in the capital.

“The phase of diplomatic efforts has ended,” declared a statement issued in the name of the interim president, Adli Mansour, a senior judge seldom seen since his appointment five weeks ago by Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the military commander.

The new government holds the Muslim Brotherhood, the main Islamist group backing Mr. Morsi, “fully responsible for the failure of these efforts and the subsequent events that may result from this failure regarding breaking the law and endangering the social peace,” the statement declared.

And although the two main sit-ins are both open and seemingly nonviolent, the statement called them “nonpeaceful.”

Coming on the eve of the weekend marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the statement suggested that the new government might capitalize on the holiday’s distraction to try to clear out the sit-ins, or at least that it hoped to end the standoff before Egyptians returned to work after the end of the slower-paced month of fasting.

In its own statement, the Islamist-led group supporting Mr. Morsi, which calls itself  the Anti-Coup Coalition,   responded by calling on Egyptians in cities and towns across the country to join its protests.

It declared that its movement and demonstrations “have been and will remain completely peaceful and we will continue our peaceful protests no matter what happens to us.”

In a rare joint statement, Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said Wednesday that the chance for reconciliation remained open and vital.

“Deeply concerned about Egypt’s future and what is at stake at this critical time, we have suggested a number of practical ideas to calm current tensions and help Egyptians build a bridge toward a real political dialogue,” the diplomats said.

“These ideas remain available for the parties even now, and our engagement at all levels continues on a daily basis,” Mr. Kerry and Ms. Ashton said, adding that the Egyptian government “bears a special responsibility to begin this process to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens.”

But after an urgent meeting of Egypt’s interim cabinet, Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said Wednesday on state television that the decision to clear the sit-ins was “irreversible.” He said that the clearing could begin any time, and he warned the Islamists against any resistance.

The government has already authorized the police to use force to carry out such an order. Security forces have detained Mr. Morsi, jailed scores of Islamist leaders and killed a total of more than 140 of the ousted president’s supporters in two mass shootings at demonstrations seeking his reinstatement.

But talks aimed at resolving the impasse have nonetheless continued behind the scenes, with envoys from the United States, the European Union, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates all meeting with officials on both sides to broker some resolution.

The Western envoys have said that they sought to persuade the military’s government to release the Islamists while at the same time persuading the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in a renewed democratic process despite its forced ouster. The Islamists dominated Egypt’s first free elections after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and still represent a sizable constituency, especially outside the capital.

In its own statement on Wednesday, however, the government said it had “allowed” the foreign envoys to meet with Brotherhood leaders only to encourage them “to respect the popular will.”

That will, the government said, was manifested through street protests supporting the military takeover.

After 10 days, the statement said, the government had “exhausted the necessary efforts that would encourage the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters to denounce violence and prevent bloodshed.”

Kareem Fahim and Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting from Cairo, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.

 

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