Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Egypt's vice president Mohamed ElBaradei (right) talks with US deputy secretary of state William Burns (centre) during a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo.
Egypt's vice president Mohamed ElBaradei (right) talks with US deputy secretary of state William Burns (centre) during a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo.

US joins UAE, Qatar and EU in Egypt crisis mediation

UAE and Qatar play key roles in flurry of diplomatic activity to mediate between Egypt's dangerously divided political camps. Bradley Hope and Elizabeth Dickinson report

CAIRO //Two prominent US senators joined diplomats from the UAE, Qatar and the European Union in Cairo yesterday in renewed efforts to mediate between Egypt's dangerously divided political camps.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived as the diplomats shuttled between government officials, military generals and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The proliferation of mediators in Cairo is an "all-hands-on-deck" policy aimed at averting a further escalation of violence on the streets, said Shadi Hamid, fellow at the Brookings Centre in Doha.

As both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood have dug in to their positions in recent days, American and European mediators have turned to the two regional allies - the UAE and Qatar - who arguably have the closest relationships with the warring sides.

The diplomats' presence appears to have bought time and averted fresh violence, which many had feared could erupt after Egypt's ministry of interior threatened to forcibly clear two sit-ins filled with thousands of protesters.

The demonstrators in Rabaa Adaweya and Nahda squares in Cairo have vowed to stay put until the Islamist former president Mohammed Morsi, deposed by the military on July 3, is reinstated.

The interim government installed by the military has called on the Brotherhood to accept Mr Morsi's removal and take part in a national reconciliation initiative, but the group refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the government.

More than 200 demonstrators have died in clashes with security forces in the past month, many of them supporters of Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

Mediators have tried to try to defuse tensions, but after two days of meetings in Cairo the rifts between the interim government's and the Brotherhood's public statements remained vast.

The spokesman for the interim president, Ahmed Al Muslemani, said yesterday not a "single step" would be changed in the military-backed political road map announced when the army ousted Mr Morsi.

The Egyptian public prosecutor will bring several Brotherhood officials, including its supreme guide Mohammed Badie and top financier Khairat El Shater, to trial on August 25 on charges of inciting violence against Egyptians last month.

The arrest and trial of Brotherhood members and supporters, as well as street clashes, have increased the opposition's resolve.

Late on Sunday, officials from the UAE and Qatar, the US deputy secretary of state William Burns and the European Union envoy Bernardino Leon met Mr Al Shater in Tora prison south of Cairo, the state news agency Mena said yesterday.

Gehad El Haddad, spokesman for the Brotherhood, said on his Twitter account that Mr El Shater had refused to meet the envoys, and told them to speak to Mr Morsi.

Mr Burns and Mr Leon also met the army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Khaled Al Attiyah and the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash, a US state department official said.

The UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed also met the interim prime minister, Hazem El Beblawi, Wam reported. Mr Burns had a separate meeting with Mr El Beblawi, and his deputy, Ziad Baha Eddin, the US state department official said.

Mr Mansour's spokesman said the envoys were also scheduled to meet another Brotherhood leader, Saad El Katatni, late yesterday.

There have been no official comments about any proposed agreement, but several scenarios have been aired in the past week, including the release of Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood officials from prison without charges if they accept the new government. The Brotherhood's demands may include the appointment of a new prime minister and a pledge that Gen El Sisi, who led the action to oust Mr Morsi, would play no role in politics.

The UAE's and Qatar's entrance into the political talks indicates the seriousness with which western officials view Egypt's continuing turmoil.

"The UAE is a major player now after their commitment of billions of dollars of aid, so they have leverage," said Mr Hamid. The UAE has pledged Dh11 billion in aid to the new government.

Qatar meanwhile has "the closest relationship with the Brotherhood", Mr Hamid said. "It makes sense for them to encourage the Brotherhood to consider certain concessions - to be a little more flexible in its negotiating position."

The UAE-Qatar joint push is also notable in itself for the potential thaw it may indicate in relations between the two countries, who have in the past differed in their policy toward Egypt.

While Doha embraced the rise of political Islam after the Arab Spring, pouring billions of dollars of aid into the country under Mr Morsi's rule, the UAE remained wary of the Brotherhood-led government.

Qatar did, however, recognise the new government after Mr Morsi was ousted, a possible move towards a broader Arabian Gulf consensus. Notably, Doha has pledged to continue the aid it promised Cairo before the transition, including discounted shipments of natural gas, which are expected to begin arriving tomorrow.

Recognising the new government "allows Qatar to play a more active role; they are not seen as polarising as they were before", said Mr Hamid.

But a rising tide of xenophobia has added to the mediators' challenges, as critics on both sides of the political battle have called on foreign countries to stay out of Egyptian affairs.

Supporters of the military have criticised the US and Europe for siding with Mr Morsi's camp and ignoring millions of anti-Morsi protesters who took to the streets on the anniversary of his inauguration to call for early presidential elections.

Similarly, pro-Morsi demonstrators have criticised the US, Europe, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for not condemning the removal of a democratically elected president, and do not accept them as mediators.

Brotherhood officials said yesterday they were adamant that a solution could be reached only through democratic means.

"Democratic processes are the only way out: the return of Morsi, the reinstatement of the constitution and the reconvening of the Shura Council," said Mohamed Shehata, a member of the central law committee of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. "The world is only dancing on the carnage of Egyptians."



* Additional reporting by Jahd Khalil

twitter: For breaking news from the Gulf, the Middle East and around the globe follow The National World. Follow us

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National