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West warned Egypt against deadly crackdown in Cairo

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-08-15

Western diplomats said Thursday they had a political plan to end the standoff between Egypt’s military rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood, before Wednesday’s crackdown on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi left at least 525 people dead.

Western allies warned Egypt’s military leaders to avoid using force to crush protests by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.

At least 525 people were killed Wednesday when security forces moved in to clear pro-Morsi protest sit-ins, ending a six-week standoff with the deposed leader’s Muslim Brotherhood movement after the armed forces toppled him from power on July 3. 

Western diplomats on Thursday said that both the US and EU had been sending coordinated messages to army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, pleading for a negotiated settlement.

ElBaradei announced his resignation after Wednesday’s assault, saying he believed a peaceful path to solving the crisis could still have been found, while warning that the government’s crackdown would likely help extremists.

‘All that happened was unnecessary’

“We had a political plan that was on the table that had been accepted by the other side (the Muslim Brotherhood),” EU envoy Bernardino Leon, who co-led the mediation effort with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, told Reuters. “They could have taken this option, so all that happened [Wednesday] was unnecessary.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry was unusually forthright in condemning the imposition of a state of emergency – a throwback to the nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule under US ally Hosni Mubarak, toppled by a popular uprising in 2011.

“In the past week, at every occasion ... we and others have urged the government to respect the rights of free assembly and of free expression, and we have also urged all parties to resolve this impasse peacefully and underscored that demonstrators should avoid violence and incitement,” Kerry said.

An Egyptian military source said the army did not believe the Brotherhood would eventually agree to a deal and felt they were only bluffing to gain time. "They tell the mediators one thing and tell their supporters another," he told Reuters.

US military aid to Egypt

The United States took the rare step of signalling its displeasure to Egypt by halting delivery of four F-16 aircraft under its military aid programme last month.

“Every year the US gives around 1.3 billion euros in military aid to Egypt,” explained FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent Stanislas de Saint Hippolyte. “This can be used as pressure on the regime,” he said, adding that the US could yet cancel joint military exercises planned for September.

But he said the US would be unwilling to exert too much pressure on such a strategic ally. “The Egyptian army is the Americans’ main partner in maintaining the security of its other partner in the region, Israel.”

Brotherhood prepares more protest marches

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood was preparing to take to the streets again to protest against the army’s assault on its followers.

“A spokesman for the Brotherhood confirmed that marches are planned for Thursday afternoon in Cairo to denounce Wednesday’s killings,” said FRANCE 24’s Sonia Dridi.

The Brotherhood vowed to bring down the “military coup” – but insisted it remained committed to peaceful activism.

“We will always be non-violent and peaceful. We remain strong, defiant and resolved,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad wrote on his Twitter feed. “We will push (forward) until we bring down this military coup.”

Date created : 2013-08-15

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