US envoy visits Egypt for talks
Talks with military come as Egypt’s interim prime minister finalises cabinet
Pro-Islamic Turks take part in a demonstration supporting deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi in Istanbul. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters
US deputy secretary of state William Burns flew to Egypt to urge its interim government, military and politicians to move toward an elected civilian government after the army coup that ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi hold up masks of him as they gather at the Rabaa Adawiya square. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters
The first senior US official to visit Egypt since the army toppled the country’s elected president will hold high-level talks in Cairo today, where thousands of supporters of the ousted Islamist leader are expected to take to the streets.
Egyptians have been shocked by violent protests in which 92 people have been killed. However, despite deep divisions between those who supported and those who opposed overthrown president Mohamed Morsi, they are united by their suspicion of Washington’s motives.
The visit will include talks with the military and comes as Egypt’s interim prime minister finalises his cabinet.
It has been given the task of implementing a military-backed plan to hold parliamentary elections in about six months’ time and to return Egypt to civilian rule. The army toppled Mr Morsi on July 3rd when millions took to the streets to demand he resign.
The move sparked outrage among Mr Morsi’s followers, Egypt’s first freely elected president, and street battles between them and his opponents swept the country on July 5th leaving 35 dead.
A week ago, 53 Morsi supporters were killed by soldiers at the Republican Guard compound in Cairo in a clash the army blamed on an attack on its troops by demonstrators, but which Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement called a “massacre”.
Four soldiers also died in the clash. Subsequent protests by the Brotherhood have mobilised tens of thousands to take to the streets, but they have passed off peacefully.
Islamist militants in Egypt’s lawless North Sinai province, bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip, have called for people to rise up against the army. A series of attacks in the area have claimed at least 13 lives, mainly security personnel, since July 3rd.
In the latest assault, suspected militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at a bus carrying workers from a cement factory in the Sinai city of El Arish, killing three and wounding 17, security and medical sources said.
The crisis in the Arab world’s most populous state, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 and which straddles the strategic Suez Canal waterway, has alarmed allies in the region and the West.
In a statement, the US State Department said Mr Burns would “underscore US support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government.”
The United States has studiously avoided calling Mr Morsi’s overthrow a coup, because, under US laws dating back to the 1980s, to do so would mean stopping the $1.3 billion in military aid it gives Egypt each year.
The Brotherhood said it was a coup, but the head of Egypt’s armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said the military was enforcing the will of the people after huge crowds took to the streets on June 30th to pressure Mr Morsi into stepping down.
What pro- and anti-Morsi camps do agree on is a belief that the United States conspired to help the other side.