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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs