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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs