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August 07, 2013

International Mediation Efforts in Egypt Stall

by Edward Yeranian

Egypt's interim presidency says efforts by foreign envoys to mediate the country's political divide have failed. Most of the envoys, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, have left, as the interim government, meanwhile, issued another stern warning for protesters to disperse.

The official statement by Egypt's interim presidency places blame on the Muslim Brotherhood group supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi for the failure of negotiations and for consequences of that failure.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns ended mediation efforts Wednesday after extending a weekend visit by 72 hours. Visiting U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, along with the foreign ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, also left the country.

A European Union delegation said it would continue to negotiate. But an EU statement said it is very "concerned" about the reported failure of international diplomacy.

The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that Al Azhar University, the country's top religious authority, is calling for talks on the country's political future after the four-day Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Morsi backers

Supporters of Morsi chanted slogans against the interim government at a press conference demanding his release. A Muslim Brotherhood attorney called detention of the group's leaders illegal.

He said he wants all political parties to participate in governing Egypt in the coming period. He said it is wrong to eliminate some political leaders by arresting them without charges.

Egypt's interim authorities have detained many top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, accusing them of inciting violence. Morsi, who also is being held, has been charged in the deaths of prison workers who perished during his escape from the Wadi Natroun prison in 2011.

U.S. Senator Graham urged Egyptian officials Tuesday to release Muslim Brotherhood leaders, saying it was “impossible to talk to someone who is in prison.”

Political stalemate

Amid the political stalemate, Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el Beblawi warned Muslim Brotherhood supporters over state TV to leave the group's two sit-in protest camps in Cairo. He promised them safe passage out and a free ride home:

He said the patience of the government is running out, and warns protesters not to resort to violence or they will be met with the utmost force. He called on demonstrators to leave the protest camps quickly, and he promised them a free bus ride to their towns or villages.

Hafez Abou Sadeh, of the Egyptian Human Rights Council, urged authorities to slowly pressure protesters into leaving. He said international norms must be used - including dialogue - before exerting stronger pressure via blockades, and he urged the creation of safe-passages for protesters to leave a sit-in. He said he opposes bloodshed, but that force is legal if protesters resort to violence or use firearms.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mohamed Baltagi, however, insisted that his group was “capable of creating hundreds of new protest camps” if the government closed down the current sit-ins.

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