Cairo - Islamist supporters of ousted Egyptian president
Mohammed Morsi began marching to demand his restoration on Thursday after the
military-led authorities that removed him held off from carrying out a threat
to clear protest sit-ins by force.
Interim President Adly Mansour declared on Wednesday that
international diplomatic efforts to resolve the political crisis had failed and
the government warned protesters to leave their protest camps, saying the
decision to remove them was final.
US and European Union envoys left Cairo on Wednesday after
the breakdown of their attempts to broker a solution, which had also involved
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
However, a person involved in the mediation effort said the
authorities and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood might yet step back from
confrontation and implement mutual confidence building steps that could lead to
a negotiated settlement.
"It's not over yet," the diplomat said. "It
could work but we don't have any guarantees. Everything is very fragile."
Egyptian government and military sources also said the talks
were not finished for good but had been frozen to assuage public anger over perceived
foreign interference in Egypt's affairs and among some at the authorities'
willingness to negotiate with the Brotherhood after months of demonising them.
A military source said the authorities were holding back
from using force to clear the protest camps partly due to fear that liberal
Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei would resign, removing a key source of
political legitimacy for army rule.
Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi visited the Central
Security Forces with the interior minister in an apparent effort to calm
hardliners impatient for tougher action.
"He assured them that the government places security at
the top of its priorities and that there is no stable society without security
that is founded on the law, and that protects the sovereignty of the state and
the lives of its citizens and their possessions," a statement from
Beblawi's office said.
Thousands of demonstrators converged on a Brotherhood
protest camp in northeastern Cairo in a festive atmosphere to attend prayers
and a rally on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday after the end of the
fasting month of Ramadan.
"I came here because I want to make a small
difference," said Ghada Idriss, 35, who travelled from the rural province
of Minya by car with her husband, two young sons, and two-month-old daughter
"By sitting here peacefully, they will understand and
know that we refuse the return of the system of Hosni [Mubarak]."
Secular and leftist groups have also called for mass
demonstrations and public prayers across Egypt to support what they see as a
popular revolution that led to the overthrow of Morsi by the military on 3 July
after just a year in office.
In one apparent conciliatory gesture, prosecutors dropped
the main charge against the head of the Brotherhood's political wing, Saad
El-Katatni, on Wednesday in a possible prelude to releasing him.
The Brotherhood allowed a human rights organisation and a
European Parliament delegation to visit the main Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in, where
anti-Morsi media have alleged that weapons had been stockpiled.
The person involved in the mediation effort said a sequence
of statements and confidence building measures aimed at reducing tensions and
reassuring public opinion might yet lead to direct or indirect negotiations
between the two sides.
So far, the Brotherhood has refused to accept what it calls
an illegal coup against Mursi and has publicly demanded the return of the
elected president, who is detained at a secret location. The new authorities
have accused Islamist leaders of inciting violence, frozen the Brotherhood's
assets and vowed to put them on trial.
Train has departed
"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," interim president
Mansour said in an Eid broadcast.
Diplomats have said any settlement would have to involve a
dignified exit for Morsi, Brotherhood acceptance of the new disposition, the
release of political prisoners arrested since the takeover and a future
political role for the Brotherhood.
The United States and the EU said on Wednesday 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," US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who was visiting
Cairo when the talks collapsed, told Reuters the country's new rulers appeared
to see no merit in talking to the Brotherhood now, but they would have to do so
eventually and the sooner the better.
At the protest sit-in around Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya
mosque, groups of protesters beat drums and chanted "Interior ministry -
thugs!", "Egypt, our country, Islamic!" and "Raise your
voice, revolution anew!"
A pick-up truck blasted the catchy song "Egypt is
Several senior Brotherhood figures who escaped arrest have
been holed up at the sit-in, including the movement's guide, Mohamed Badie, and
some former ministers and parliamentary leaders.
While violence has subsided in Cairo since a 27 July incident
in which security forces shot dead at least 80 Islamist protesters, daily
clashes have continued between Islamist militants and the army in the lawless
Sinai Peninsula adjoining Israel.
The army said on Wednesday it had killed 60 militants in the
province since Morsi was ousted on 3 July, and medical officials have said the
gunmen have killed about 40 people, mostly members of the security forces.