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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs