Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—The commander of the Egyptian armed forces, General Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, called on political parties to reach a political settlement before the planned opposition demonstrations on 30 June on Sunday, and warned that the army would not stay on the sidelines if there was a risk of chaos in the country.
General Sissi said the army’s main responsibility to the nation made it imperative for the army to intervene if there was a threat that the would begin country “slipping into darkness”.
Sissi pointed out that “the armed forces had avoided being drawn into the political arena, but that its national, historic and moral responsibility to the people makes it imperative that it intervenes to stop Egypt slipping into a dark tunnel of conflict, internal fighting, exchanging accusations of treason and criminality, sectarian sedition, and the collapse of institutions.”
He warned against the dangers of division within the political arena following last Friday’s demonstrations in support of President Mursi.
He said: “It is important to have harmony among all parties, and those who think this situation is good for the country are mistaken. It harms the country and threatens Egyptian national security.”
The armed forces have kept a distance from politics since Sissi took command in August last year. He told a gathering of his officers yesterday: “They who think that we are safe from the dangers threatening our country are mistaken, and we will not watch in silence as the country slides into an uncontrollable conflict.”
The armed forces governed Egypt in the period after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and the arrival of Mohamed Mursi in June 2012.
Sissi, whose statement is likely to increase speculation that the Egyptian army is re-entering the political arena, added: “the will of the Egyptian people’s is what governs [the army], and we embrace it with honor and integrity. We are totally responsible for its protection and will not allow anyone to harm the will of the people.”
Sissi continued: “It is not brave to stand aside and watch our Egyptian people being threatened and intimidated; it is better to die than allow any Egyptian to be harmed in the presence of their army.” This comment was interpreted as a response to threats made by Islamists last Friday to try to prevent large numbers of people from joining the 30 June anti-president demonstrations.
He urged people to stop attacking the armed forces, warning that the army will not stay silent to these attacks. He concluded his statement by saying “the armed forces call on everyone to find a principle of understanding and communication, and genuine reconciliation, to protect Egypt and its people. We have a week in which a lot can be achieved.”
Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau member, Mahmoud Ghazlan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “despite the embarrassment this statement causes to the presidency, because it represents an intrusion by the army in politics, the Muslim Brotherhood does not have a problem in dealing positively with it.”
Ghazlan added that “the opposition could have spared the country this embarrassment by responding to our repeated calls for reconciliation, a call made also by the presidency.”
He added that the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies had shown restraint in last Friday’s demonstration in support of Mursi, in which they avoided violence, adding that it was the Muslim Brotherhood who adhered to democratic values, not others.
Meanwhile, Asharq Al-Awsat has learnt that leading members of the opposition Salvation Front have called for an urgent meeting to discuss the statement. They told Asharq Al-Awsat that any reconciliation talks must be preceded by a call by President Mursi for early presidential elections.