Failed Negotiations | Rights Groups Condemn Sectarian Attacks

The Egyptian presidency announced that intervention efforts by various foreign governments and bodies had failed. The Egyptian government blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the collapse of the talks. Interim President Adly Mansour claimed that the military-backed government would move forward with its transition plan, saying, “The train of the future has departed, and everyone must realize the moment and catch up with it, and whoever fails to realize this moment must take responsibility for their decision.”

Supporters of deposed President Muhammad Morsi remained encamped in two large sit-ins, outside Raba’a al-Adaweya Mosque in Nasr City and near Nahda Square in Giza. The Egyptian government insisted that they had allowed more than sufficient time for a political solution, but the Brotherhood was not complying. “We have given the time needed to exhaust the necessary efforts to curb the violence, end the bloodshed, and stop the confusion in Egypt’s society,” said Mansour. Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said that the government had decided to dismantle protest camps, that their patience was running out, and that any further violence would be stopped via the “utmost force and decisiveness.” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters, “This means they are preparing for an even bigger massacre. They should be sending us positive signals, not live bullets.”

As detailed in a lengthy New York Times piece published August 17, American and European officials were surprised by the Egyptian government’s sudden declaration that talks had failed. Amr Darrag, an adviser to Morsi who was involved in the negotiations, said,

“[The American and European envoys] were used to justify the violence. They were just brought in so that the coup government could claim that the negotiations failed, and, in fact, there were no negotiations.”

In the immediate aftermath of the government’s decision, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying:

The Egyptian government bears a special responsibility to begin this process to ensure the safety and welfare of its citizens. 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. Now is not the time to assess blame, but to take steps that can help initiate a dialogue and move the transition forward.

The U.S. embassy issued a warning to its citizens in Cairo discussing the likelihood of violence should the Egyptian authorities attempt to clear the ongoing sit-ins by force.

Separately, the Egyptian army claimed that sixty militants had been killed in Sinai in the past month, with a further sixty-four wounded and over one hundred arrested. Since’s Morsi’s fall, the army has clamped down on criminal activity, including smuggling, leading to a spate of attacks on security forces that have killed about forty. Sinai militants today killed a former Member of Parliament, Abdel Hamid Silmi, as he left a mosque. Two soldiers were injured in a separate attack in Arish.

A group of sixteen human rights organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, condemned recent violence against Christians, including the violence in Minya in early August. The statement began:

The undersigned organizations express their grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the uprising of June 30.  These organizations strongly condemn the rhetoric employed by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies which includes clear incitement to violence and religious hatred in order to achieve political gains, regardless of the grave repercussions of such rhetoric for peace in Egypt.

The undersigned organizations further denounce the continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence which have been seen in several governorates to account.

Clashes in Alexandria resulted in one dead and 27 injured. Live fire was reported from both sides in the fight between pro- and anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Interim president Adly Mansour announced today the criteria for forming a committee of 50 individuals (C50) to amend the Egyptian Constitution. The announcement followed the criteria set out in Article 29 of the July 8 constitutional declaration. Daily New Egypt stated that the following groups were represented in the C50: Al-Azhar, youth groups, the Coptic Church, “Islamist” parties, “mainstream” parties, the Egyptian Writers Union, various professional syndicates, and the National Council for Women.