Announcement follows efforts by envoys from the U.S., the E.U. and the Gulf to defuse the crisis between the government and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy.
Egypt’s interim government has slammed visiting Senator John McCain for threatening to cut off U.S. aid to Cairo, and signalled it would prefer a home-grown solution to its standoff with the rival Muslim Brotherhood rather than depend on foreign intervention.
The interim government was piqued by Mr. McCain’s description of the July 3 military takeover of the government from elected President Mohamed Morsy as a “coup” — a coinage that, if accepted by Washington, would mean an automatic termination of the $1.5-billion U.S. aid to Egypt. U.S. domestic law bars aid to any country where the military topples an elected government in a coup d’état.
“We share the democratic aspirations and the criticisms of the Morsy government that led millions of Egyptians into the streets,” said Mr. McCain at a media conference. But “the circumstances of the former government’s President’s removal were a coup, and we have said that we cannot expect Egypt or any other country to abide by its laws if we do not abide by ours in the United States”. Mr. McCain was accompanied by Senator Lindsey Graham.
Both the visiting Senators urged Egypt’s provisional government to free detained members of the Brotherhood, including Mr. Morsy, before initiating talks with the group. “In democracy, you sit down and talk to each other,” counselled Mr. Graham. “It is impossible to talk to somebody who is in jail.”
Responding furiously to Mr. McCain’s comments, Ahmed El-Muslimani, a spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour said: “John McCain is distorting facts. His clumsy statements are unacceptable in form and substance.”
The interim government is also unhappy that a beeline of foreign diplomats and politicians, including the two Senators, has failed to persuade Mr. Morsy’s supporters to call off their protest, which include a marathon sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo’s upscale Nasr city.
Apart from the Senators, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was also in Cairo to work out a breakthrough in the impasse.
Accompanied by Foreign Ministers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, Mr. Burns met imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood heavyweight Khairat al-Shater. Analysts say the interim government is resentful of the message emerging out of foreign mediation that the Brotherhood must be fully accommodated in steering Egypt’s democratic future.
The state-run newspaper, Al Ahram, is reporting that the interim President would soon be releasing a statement finding fault with foreign intervention because of its failure “to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood on a peaceful solution”.
The frustration of the military-backed government with the exhortations flowing from international quarters was evident in Mr. Muslimani’s blunt remark during a meeting with reporters that “foreign pressure has exceeded international standards”.
Al Ahram’s website quoted a government official as saying international mediation to end the crisis had failed to deliver. “There seems very little hope left that there could be a way forward. We were hoping to reach an understanding. We worked hard and were very open to all possible mediations, but things did not work out,” said the official.