London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The European Union (EU) and the US are pressuring Egypt’s interim government to halt the violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and end the political crisis that has engulfed the country.
The EU’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, met with deposed president Mohamed Mursi on Monday to discuss the political crisis in the country. This was the first meeting between the ousted leader and a senior foreign official, with Ashton reporting that Mursi was in “good health.”
Local media reported that the two hour meeting could lead to a deal between the Muslim Brotherhood and state authorities to end the violence that has erupted in the country following Mursi’s ouster.
Ashton did not reveal the details of her discussion with Mursi, informing the media that she held a “friendly, open, and very frank” conversation with the deposed president in an undisclosed location where he is being held by the military.
She denied that she offered Mursi a “safe exit” from Egypt in return for renouncing his claim to the presidency. Egypt’s first democratically-elected and Islamist president is facing charges of murder and “conspiring” with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
“What we said to everyone is you need to find a calm resolution to the situation on the ground. We’ve been talking to everyone about the squares and what’s happening there. We’ve made it clear that there is no place for violence in this,” Ashton told reporters.
However leaders of the Tamarod (Rebellion) movement also met with Ashton on Monday, where they emphasized that they reject any deal that would lead to a safe exit for Mursi or other Brotherhood leaders.
“Everyone involved in bloodshed must be subject to a fair trial,” one of the movement’s leaders said in a statement on the group’s website.
The Tamarod statement added that the Egyptian people respect those who respect their will, adding “all countries must respect our will.”
The White House has condemned the Egyptian interim government’s violent crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, but took no immediate steps to suspend US military assistance to the country, aside from holding up the scheduled delivery of four combat jets to Egypt’s air force.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “Violence not only further sets back the process of reconciliation and democratization in Egypt, but it will negatively impact regional stability.”
While French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called for the deposed president to be released, echoing calls from Washington and other Western capitals.
“France calls for the rejection of violence and for the release of political prisoners including former president Mursi,” Fabius said.
The increased international pressure on Egypt comes after a violent crackdown on the pro-Mursi camp in eastern Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square that left at least 83 dead. The Brotherhood allege that more than 100 Mursi supporters were killed, the majority by sniper fire.
Egypt’s post-Mursi interim government is facing accusations of a return to Mubarak-era tactics following the violent crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood this week, and the reinstatement of feared secret police units.
Egypt’s feared Mabahith Amn Al-Dawla, the State Security Investigation Service (SSIS), was closed following the January 25 revolution amid accusations of targeting protesters. The agency was replaced by the National Security Service (NSS).
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced the reinstatement of the SSIS following the Rabaa Al-Adawiya massacre, adding that experienced security officers who had been sidelined following January 25 would be returned to the field.
Violence continues to plague post-Mursi Egypt with 15 people reported killed on Monday in clashes in Cairo. Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported that they had been killed in a gunfight on Monday evening between shop owners and street vendors in the central Cairo district of El-Moski. Muslim Brotherhood leaders called on the public to continue to protest against Mursi’s ouster and attempts by the interim government to disperse them.
Egypt’s National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy, which is led by the embattled Muslim Brotherhood, issued a statement on Monday calling for further protests.
“We call on the masses to rage against the bloodshed of unarmed Egyptians and to take to the streets and to continue the peaceful revolt against the oppressive measures practiced by the leaders of the coup d’état,” the statement read.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters: “It’s very simple, we are not going anywhere.”
“We are going to increase the protest,” he added.