World from Berlin: Old Egypt Makes a Comeback
With violence escalating in Egypt, top Western diplomats are calling for calm and for national unity talks in the deeply divided country. Editorialists at leading German papers fear a vicious cycle of violence is returning to one of the Middle East's most important countries.
The Muslim Brotherhood called for new protests across Egypt against the interim government on Thursday, simultaneously announcing it would organize a march through Cairo in the afternoon. The announcement has prompted fears of a new wave of violence following the bloodbath that consumed parts of the Egyptian capital on Wednesday, when security forces resorted to violence to clear two sit-in protest camps.
Officials in Egypt are saying that around 300 people were killed in the melee, but the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is stating a far higher figure of 2,000 dead. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed president Mohammed Morsi have been protesting in Egypt for weeks now after the military takeover at the beginning of July that removed the country's first democratically elected leader following mass public demonstrations.
On Thursday, members of international community intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle summoned the Egyptian ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Westerwelle said he wanted to send a strong message to the Egyptian government that the bloodbath must be stopped. Speaking during a visit to Tunisia, Westerwelle said, "We cannot allow a vicious cycle of violence to begin now."
In Germany, the deadly actions by Egyptian security forces lead the front pages of daily papers and the editorial pages. Most argue that both sides -- the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government -- need to come to the negotiating table in order to prevent the bloodshed from developing into a full-fledged civil war.
The leftist Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The Muslim Brotherhood described the eviction of pro-Morsi supporters from protest camps as a 'massacre.' This appears to be a fair assessment of what has happened. What else is it when peaceful demonstrators are attacked and shot at by armed tanks, and many are left dead or injured? It's not only people who have died in Cairo. So too have hopes that security forces will be willing to return Egypt to democracy. If they crack down with such brutality on the opposition, they will at best tolerate a puppet government, but not an independent one."
"The Egyptian armed forces have been pulling the strings of civilian politicians for decades. It intially looked as though the Arab Spring had put an end to that. But a return to old structures appears to be underway. It seems fair to say that what is currently happening in Egypt amounts to a counter-revolution."
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"When it comes to stating the number of victims, the Muslim Brotherhood has a tendency to exaggerate. In fact, this kind of exaggeration is typical of protest movements around the world. But Egypt has its own peculiarities. Right up to today, the Muslim Brotherhood has been driven by the myth of martyrdom, that they are fighting on earth for just things and that they will be rewarded with paradise if they die for the cause. In other words, the current Muslim Brotherhood leadership has little regard for talks and peaceful protests. Instead they focus on battle and provocation that can easily turn to violence."
"But you can't blame them. The Islamists see no basis for negotiations after the toppling of Mohammed Morsi, the president of their choosing who was freely elected. In addition, it's none other than the language of the underground that drives these old fighters. They were the victims of constant persecution under one Egyptian leader after the other -- from Mubarak and Sadat to Nasser."
"That doesn't mean that this tendency is smart. Under the rule of the military, the fight against current conditions can only end in defeat. It would be wiser for the Muslim Brotherhood to seek a dialogue. Both the military and the interim government are prepared to engage in such talks. By participating in a 'national dialogue,' the Islamists could prevent a civil war and also push through some of their interests."
The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung newspaper writes:
"The brute force employed by the Egyptian police and supported by the military in their attempts to quash protests by supporters of ousted President Morsi seems to be a confirmation of peoples' worst fears: Morsi's removal from office by the country's military leadership under General Abdel Fattah al-Sisis is not an attempt to encourage a new democratic beginning for Egypt. For Al-Sisi, it is about helping the authoritarian forces of the old regime back into power. Not only the violent clearance of protest camps and the arbitrary pursuit of Muslim Brothers, but also the rising number of attacks on churches and police stations are an indication of this."
The conservative Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung writes:
"The supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood know only too well that they won't play a political role for quite some time if the order created by the July 3 coup is sustained. Accordingly, many are willing to die as martyrs. With each victim, they will feel even more righteous. The military solution is bloody, but a political solution is still distant. The situation is beyond the scope of international mediators -- they all departed empty-handed. Without movement between the two irreconcilably opposed camps, Egypt will be threatened with persistent instability and a long period of uncertainty. But stability is a prerequisite for economic development."
"At stake here, above all, is the cohesion of Egyptian society. Despite all idealogical disagreements, Egyptians were always proud to belong to the same people. But the tensions of the recent past have driven a wedge into this society. The three most important institutions that ensured the country's cohesion and stayed out of politics -- the military, the Islamic Al Azhar University and the Coptic Church -- were parties in the putsch this time. Morsi's supporters are now disputing their integrity and view these institutions as political enemies. The basis for possible consensus in Egypt has collapsed."
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"The bloodbath on the Nile is a scandal. A scandal for the country, but also a scandal for international diplomacy. Neither US diplomats nor German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who last week rushed to Egypt, have been able to help negotiate a peaceful solution."
"It appears the Egyptian military won't listen, either. At the same time, not a single leading Western diplomat has been in Cairo during the last few days. Aside from Westerwelle, they were last seen a few weeks back for an opportune photo op. That's not what sincere efforts look like. As the European Union's top diplomat and the sole person who has access to all sides, Catherine Ashton should have made yet another effort to try everything she could, flanked, of course by the other EU foreign ministers. Unfortunately, like Westerwelle, they are all too often only willing to practice fair-weather diplomacy. But warnings or expressions of concern are insufficient because what is beginning in Egypt is a serious drama -- a vicious cycle of lasting violence."
-- SPIEGEL ONLINE Staff
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