News / Middle East

Muslim Brotherhood Proposes Crisis Talks via EU Envoy

In this zoom effect photo taken with a slow shutter speed, supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi gather during a demonstration in front of Cairo University, where protesters have installed their camp in Giza, southwest of Cairo, Egypt, Jul
In this zoom effect photo taken with a slow shutter speed, supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi gather during a demonstration in front of Cairo University, where protesters have installed their camp in Giza, southwest of Cairo, Egypt, Jul
Reuters
— The Muslim Brotherhood said on Thursday it had proposed through an EU go-between a framework for talks to resolve Egypt's political crisis, its first formal announcement of an offer for negotiations since President Mohamed Morsi was toppled.

Brotherhood official Gehad el-Haddad, who represented the movement in previous EU-facilitated talks, told Reuters the proposal had been made to envoy Bernardino Leon before a visit on Wednesday by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.

Leon confirmed he had offered the European Union's “good offices” to help resolve the crisis, although he said the term “mediator” exaggerated the role.

The proposal, as described by Haddad, was still in its early stages. He did not give details, describing it as only a “framework” for opening a channel of dialogue, and insisting on the Brotherhood's firm demand that the July 3 “coup” that brought down Morsi be reversed.

He also said it was not clear who would represent the opposite side: the military that removed Morsi or politicians.

“We need a third side. It's not even clear who the third side would be. Is it the army? The NSF?” he said, referring to the National Salvation Front [NSF] made up of political groups that oppose Morsi.

Seeking dialogue

Leon, who spoke by telephone on board his flight back to Brussels from Cairo, declined to go into details of any proposals he had received, but said he believed the sides were growing more open to talks.

“It is too early to talk about initiatives. We have just listened to the parties and to what are their positions and any possible room for openness to support. We believe that this should be an... Egyptian dialog and no foreign actors,” Bernadino said. “What we have been doing is explore openers, to see what is the room for starting something.”

During her visit on Wednesday, Ashton met several senior Brotherhood figures, as well as the interim authorities. The visit provided a notable contrast with one two days earlier by a senior U.S. envoy, who left without meeting the Brotherhood.

An aide to Mohamed ElBaradei, the NSF leader named vice president in the interim government, had no immediate comment.

Haddad said the Brotherhood would be willing to negotiate any political issue, including new elections to replace Morsi as president, but he insisted the army would first have to reverse its decree that unilaterally removed Morsi.

“First they have to reverse the coup,” he said. “You can't come on a tank and remove an elected leader... It is a stand-off, it is either a military coup or a democratic choice,” he said in a midnight interview at site in Cairo of a mass vigil by thousands of protesters demanding Morsi's return.

Leon acknowledged that the sides were far apart.

“They are both in very firm positions, both sides, but at the same time we think that they are not completely closed to the possibility of re-engaging. So, I wouldn't say that we left Egypt optimistic, but at least I can say not pessimistic either.”

Reverse the coup

Morsi and a small number other Brotherhood figures - including Haddad's father - have been held incommunicado by the armed forces at an undisclosed location since he was toppled.

The Brotherhood has maintained its vigil near a Cairo mosque into its third week. Since Morsi's fall, protest marches have frequently led to violence in which at least 99 people have been killed, with both sides blaming the other.

Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been rounded up and the authorities have issued arrest warrants for most of the group's leaders. Haddad himself said he faced treason charges.

The interim government has invited the Brotherhood to participate in the transition leading to new elections, expected in about six months. The Brotherhood has dismissed those offers as propaganda.

Haddad said the authorities were determined to destroy the Islamist organization to ensure it never won elections again, a policy he said would backfire by pushing the Brotherhood underground where it survived during decades of military rule.

“They need to give the Brotherhood deep enough blows that it won't be able to contest anything new. How do they do that? Freezing the assets, arresting the top leaders, closing down the party and the Brotherhood headquarters and offices across the country, and killing people on the street,” he said. “And they think we are going to budge? This is an organization built for 86 years under oppressive regimes. That is the nature of the organization, that is our comfort zone. They just pushed us back into it."

Haddad said the Brotherhood could again participate in new elections, but that it would be unlikely to accept them as long as the military had shown it was willing to overrule the result.

“Either we force the military's head back into the barracks, and they have to be taught a lesson not to pop their head back into the political scene ever again, or we die trying,” he said.

Spaniard Leon acted as a go-between in secret negotiations in the first half of this year between the Brotherhood and the NSF. The Brotherhood was represented by Haddad, and the NSF by figures including ElBaradei.

Those discussions, revealed by Reuters this week, failed to produce a deal in time to save Egypt's first freely elected president. But they did establish the EU as a trusted neutral party at a time when Washington is doubted by both sides.

According to Haddad's account, largely matching accounts from EU and NSF figures, the sides were close to agreement on three main opposition demands: a new cabinet, revisions to an electoral law and the removal of the public prosecutor.

Haddad said the main disagreement ended up being the fate of Hisham Kandil, Morsi's prime minister. The Brotherhood had been willing to let the opposition name a replacement, but Morsi refused, arguing that the prime minister needed to come from a party with strong representation in parliament, said Haddad.

He also said the NSF figures on the opposite side, however, seemed determined to avoid reaching a deal no matter what.

“If the NSF were to send the president a list of their demands, literally everything they could think of, on NSF letterheaded paper, and the president were to remove the NSF letterhead and put it on a presidential letterhead, and sign it and seal with with a presidential seal, and issue it as a decree - they would go to the street protesting against it.”

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid