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Egyptian Foreign Minister: Pro-Morsi Protests ‘Can’t Continue Endlessly’

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy at a press conference in Cairo on Aug. 1. Photo by Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images.

Despite warnings of impending action, the Egyptian government is holding off using force to disperse two massive protest camps of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi — for now. But “this can’t continue endlessly,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy told PBS NewsHour senior correspondent Margaret Warner on Tuesday.

The interview can be seen on Tuesday’s NewsHour broadcast. (He comments on the Mideast peace process in this web-only interview.)

Fahmy spoke from the capital Cairo on a day of clashes there between pro- and anti-Morsi factions and with police.

He indicated that entreaties from the United States and Europe to avoid violence had stayed the government’s hand for now. “They’ve been telling us privately, similarly to what they’ve been saying publicly, that efforts should be made to resolving this peacefully.

“It’s always better to find a solution through dialogue if that’s possible. At the same time, the stalemate on the ground cannot continue because it infringes on security not only of the inhabitants in that area but the security in the country as a whole. And you can’t set up an economy, tourism and so on and so forth, in light of that,” Fahmy said.

“So we will be patient, but at the same time, this can’t continue endlessly.”

The foreign minister acknowledged that the standoff over the pro-Morsi protest camps was hobbling the government’s larger task of putting Egypt on a “roadmap” to restoring civilian democracy, with a new constitution and new elections. Solving the protest camps confrontation “would facilitate, in my view, the reconciliation process. That’s why it has to be done in a reasonably short period of time.” In early July, the Egyptian military promised that the process of writing a new constitution and holding elections would be completed in seven to nine months.

Efforts are still being pursued to persuade the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in the broader reconciliation process, Fahmy said. But he noted that any compromise that would include returning Morsi to power — even briefly before resigning — was a non-starter.

“Anything that attempts to rewrite history rather than to move forward from the 30th of June onward, would not carry much water, frankly.”

Up until now, Muslim Brotherhood officials have insisted that any reconciliation deal include recognition of Morsi’s stature as the country’s elected president, even if just temporarily.

Morsi was removed from office on July 3 — a year after taking office — and moved by the military to detention in an undisclosed location.

On a recent trip to Cairo, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on the government to release Morsi and other “political prisoners” as a necessary prelude to any dialogue. Fahmy responded by saying Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders are being held because they are being investigated for criminal, rather than political, charges.

Asked if a political resolution would be viewed as legitimate if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t participate, Fahmy repeated the invitation for them to participate. “Egypt cannot only be for Islamists, it cannot only be for secularists, it has to involve everyone,” he said. “But it has to be based on building an inclusive society for the future, it can’t be exclusive politics and it can’t be a process that is not transparent and does not respond to the interests of the people.”

Related Resources

July 5, 2013: Egypt’s Ambassador: Morsi Was Unable to Be ‘President of All Egyptians

July 4, 2013: What Does Morsi’s Ouster Mean for Islamist Movements in Other Nations?

July 3, 2013: As Morsi Is Removed From Power, What Are Next Steps for Egypt and Its Military?

July 3, 2013: Egyptians Celebrate Morsi’s Ouster

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