(Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
After more than 80 supporters of Egypt's deposed Islamist president were killed and hundreds were injured in clashes with the country's security forces over the weekend, a European Union delegation was in Cairo on Monday to meet with all sides and help ensure a "fully inclusive transition."
The delegation led by EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton plans to meet top officials, including General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian armed forces that overthrew President Mohammed Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood on July 3. She will also meet the country's interim President Adli Mansour and officials of the Brotherhood's political wing Freedom and Justice Party, according to Reuters.
Ashton issued a statement, calling for a "fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood."
While the U.S. gives $1.5 billion a year in aid to Egypt, it apparently has little influence in that country. The E.U. is the biggest civilian aid donor to Egypt.
The Brotherhood, an Islamist group that operated underground until the fall of President Hosni Mubarak after an uprising in 2011, claims the country's military has reversed the revolution and demands reinstatement of Morsi, who was elected president in June 2012.
Over 260 people have been killed since the ouster of Morsi, according to The Associate Press.
The worst spate of violence was witnessed on Saturday after millions of Egyptians came to the streets to protest following General al-Sisi's call for Friday protests to give him a "mandate to confront terrorism," which was widely seen as a request to oppose Morsi's supporters. At least 83 people were killed mostly in police firing over the weekend.
Morsi's ouster on July 3 came days after millions of protesters demanded that Morsi step down. Supporters of Morsi, who is under detention by the military after the coup, soon began holding a tent vigil, and have marched daily since then.
Authorities have threatened to clear the Brotherhood's tent vigil. "It's a source of terrorism that's threatening the whole society, and that's being confirmed by the day," Mostafa Hegazy, adviser to interim President Mansour, was quoted as saying.
Interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy foresees "more tragedies." While he is against the ideology of the Brotherhood, he says the Islamist group should be given a place in the country. "If they decide to withdraw from politics, it will be disappointing, if they decide to pursue violence, then you are looking at a completely different confrontation," he was quoted as saying. "Even if I personally reject their positions or ideology, they have to find their place in Egypt's political life."
Egypt's Coptic Christians, who account for at least 10 percent of the total population of 82 million, faced numerous attacks after the ouster of Mubarak and under Morsi's leadership. The Islamist-backed constitution Egyptian voters approved through a controversial referendum last year establishes Islamist supremacy and caused concerns over the lack of full religious freedom in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.