CAIRO — As international diplomatic efforts continue to help defuse Egypt's ongoing political crisis, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain have joined visiting foreign emissaries in meeting with Egyptian leaders.
Following their talks Senators Graham and McCain told journalists that "democracy is the only road forward” and stressed that “all Egyptians have the right to participate if they do so non-violently.” Both urged the “release of prisoners” of the Muslim Brotherhood by the interim military government and Graham called for a quick return to national dialogue
"In a democracy you have to sit down and talk with each other, even though you may not like the person on the other side of the table. It is impossible to talk to somebody who's in jail. That is not a sustainable model that will allow transition to occur. How do you get moving back in Egypt? One: violence will kill literally and figuratively the future of Egypt. Four-hundred maybe have died. If 400 more die, it's going to be very difficult to put this country back on track," he said.
Both men said that they think Egypt's recent political developments represent what they called “a coup,” but Graham stressed that the U.S. did not cut off aid to Cairo “because it would send the wrong signal to do so.” He added, however, that Egypt is on the wrong track:
"The status quo is unacceptable. Do you all agree with that? You live here. Something has got to give. One of two things are going to happen: things are slowly going to get better, and that means releasing some prisoners and beginning to talk, or they're quickly going to get worse, which means people are going to start dying, and that to me is the worst outcome," he said.
McCain called Egypt the “heart and soul of the Arab world,” and said that whatever path it took would be a “model for the rest of the region.”
The senators arrived in Cairo Monday, joining mediation efforts of U.S. envoy William Burns, European Union envoy Bernardino Leon, and the foreign ministers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S, lawmakers are prominent members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and are veteran practitioners of U.S. foreign policy. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the men were representing the U.S. Senate and not President Barack Obama.
Shuttle-diplomacy between Egypt's interim leaders and representatives of ousted President Morsi has been criticized by members of both camps, but appears to have won at least tacit approval.
Some supporters of both the interim government and the embattled Muslim Brotherhood group say outside mediators should not interfere in Egypt's internal political affairs.
Prominent writer Ala'a al Aswany says that Egypt's justice system should handle the case.
"It is unacceptable for foreign diplomats to negotiate safe-passage for politicians who have criminal charges pending against them," he said. "Egyptians should resist this outside pressure.Neither the U.S., the E.U., nor any other country has a right to interfere in judicial cases against Muslim Brotherhood officials who have broken the law."
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Haddad also slammed outside mediators, insisting they were “trying to convince the Brotherhood to accept the new political reality, but that the group refuses to do so."