CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egypt’s political crisis entered a tense new phase yesterday after international mediation efforts collapsed and the army-installed government repeated its threat to take action against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi.
Both sides called their supporters on to the streets today, while Mursi supporters in two protest camps in Cairo strengthened sandbag-and-brick barricades in readiness for any action by security forces.
Acting President Adli Mansour, in a message on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, said Egypt was now in critical circumstances. The interim government would press on with its own plan to hold new elections in nine months time, he said.
“The train of the future has departed, and everyone must realise the moment and catch up with it, and whoever fails to realise this moment must take responsibility for their decision,” he said.
U.S. envoy William Burns made his way home after days of trying to broker a compromise between the government and Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood. European Union envoy Bernardino Leon stayed on in the capital in the slim hope of reviving the effort.
But Brussels and Washington said they were very concerned that the Egyptian parties had not found a way to break what they called a dangerous stalemate.
“This remains a very fragile situation, which holds not only the risk of more bloodshed and polarization in Egypt, but also impedes the economic recovery, which is so essential for Egypt’s successful transition,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement.
The army ousted the Islamist Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, on July 3 after huge street demonstrations against his rule.
Mursi and leaders of his Muslim Brotherhood have been rounded up and detained. But thousands of their supporters have demonstrated to demand his reinstatement.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since the overthrow, including 80 Mursi supporters shot dead by security forces in a single incident on July 27.
Mansour earlier on Wednesday blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the breakdown of the international mediation effort, and for any violence that might result.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said the government’s decision to dismantle the protest camps was final and its patience had nearly expired.
Beblawi accused protesters of inciting violence, blocking roads and detaining citizens, and he warned that any further violence would be met “with utmost force and decisiveness.”
People should leave the camps now, Beblawi said.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad, asked about the threat, told Reuters: “This means they are preparing for an even bigger massacre. They should be sending us positive signals, not live bullets.”
PEACE AT EID?
Yesterday afternoon, people streamed into the camp outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in northeast Cairo, where demonstrators have built barricades and armed themselves with sticks and rocks. Many were women and children.
“We will not leave until we get Mursi back,” said Salma Imam, 19, student at Al-Azhar university. “It’s not a government, the real government was chosen by the Egyptian people one year ago. This is not a legal government.”
Any action could still be some time away, however.
Egyptians celebrate Eid, which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, from Thursday to Sunday, an inauspicious time for any act of violence.