Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Egyptian politicians and Western diplomats: Mohamed Mursi might still be president of Egypt today if he had grasped a political deal brokered by the European Union with opposition parties in April

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013   No comments

Convinced that election victories gave them a sufficient basis to rule, Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood spurned the offer to bridge the most populous Arab nation's deep political divide. Less than three months later, the army overthrew him after mass anti-government protests.

Under a compromise crafted in months of shuttle diplomacy by EU envoy Bernardino Leon, six secular opposition parties allied in the National Salvation Front would have recognised Mursi's legitimacy and agreed to participate in parliamentary elections they had threatened to boycott.

In return, Mursi would have agreed to replace Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and five key ministers to form a technocratic national unity cabinet, sack a disputed prosecutor general and amend the election law to satisfy Egypt's constitutional court.

The failure to clinch a deal shows the challenge facing the EU as it seeks to raise its profile in an area where the United States was long the sole power broker. But given deep antipathy to Washington on both sides of Egyptian politics, the EU may be the only "honest broker" and it is not giving up.

Its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, returns to Cairo on Wednesday in a fresh effort to forge consensus - though there was little sign of that on Tuesday when an interim government was sworn in and the Brotherhood denounced it as "illegitimate".

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