.
.
.
.

Hagel urges Egyptian army to back ‘inclusive process’

Published: Updated:

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday urged his Egyptian counterpart to support an “inclusive” political process in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi.

Hagel spoke early Saturday with General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of Egypt's armed forces, which drove Mursi from power on July 3 amid massive protests against his year-long rule.

“Secretary Hagel expressed concern about the recent violence in Egypt and urged General al-Sisi to support an inclusive political process,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“General Sisi assured Secretary Hagel that Egyptian authorities were working toward a process of political reconciliation and that he looked forward to meeting with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns while he is in Cairo.”

The U.S. statement said Sisi and the interim government remain committed to a “political roadmap leading to elections and the formation of a constitution in Egypt.”

The United States has been trying to head off a deepening crisis in a key Middle East ally as Mursi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood hold mass rallies despite government warnings to disperse.

Washington provides some $1.5 billion a year in mostly military aid to Egypt and has long maintained close ties to the country’s armed forces.

More than 250 people have been killed since Mursi’s ouster as clashes have erupted around two large protest camps set up by the deposed president’s supporters in different parts of Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has seen several of its top leaders jailed since Mursi’s ouster, has refused talks with the military-backed interim government, accusing it of having carried out an illegal coup against the country’s first democratically elected president.

On Saturday, Burns met with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy hours after meeting with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

After meeting with Burns, Fahmy told reporters “there is no desire to use force if there is any other avenue that has not been exhausted.”

“The door is open for everybody including the Brotherhood to participate in the process,” he said.