The Egyptian presidency has asserted that the only way to get out of the current political crisis is through dialogue, calling on all parties to commit to peaceful protest as hundreds of thousands stage demonstrations in rival protests across the country.
“The presidency has called on political parties for dialogue more than once,” said a presidential spokesman at a news conference Sunday evening.
“Dialogue is the only way to reach consensus,” he added. “The presidency aims to reach serious national reconciliation to pull the country out of its current state of polarisation.”
Millions of Egyptians are taking part in the widely-anticipated demonstrations calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, and snap presidential elections.
Tens of thousands of supporters of President Morsi remain in a sit-in in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square. Seventeen Islamist parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, organised two mass rallies over the last week to defend Morsi’s democratic legitimacy.
The presidential spokesman reaffirmed citizens’ right to peaceful protest, but urged all political parties to reject violence.
“The safety of all Egyptians is the responsibility of the presidency, regardless of their affiliations,” the spokesman affirmed.
Deadly confrontations between the president’s supporters and opponents have taken place intermittently since Wednesday in the run up to Sunday’s protests, in which at least three were confirmed dead and hundreds injured.
The presidency also strongly condemned a mob sexual assault on a female foreigner in Tahrir Square during anti-government protests on Friday.
“Such incidents are completely alien to Egyptian society and are detrimental to Egypt’s image abroad,” the spokesman said. “The presidency has ordered police to arrest the perpetrators immediately.”
Furthermore, the presidency stressed that the president and the Egyptian people “would never accept western interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.” The comment was in response to a question about US President Barack Obama’s calls for the presidency and opposition to enter dialogue.
The spokesman also dismissed reports that top army generals were contacting opposition leaders to persuade them to respond to the presidency’s call for dialogue.
“The army is aware of its role in safeguarding the borders and state establishments. The presidency does not need mediation with opposition forces,” he added.
Sunday’s protests are an extension of a grassroots signature drive dubbed ‘Rebel,’ formed last May to collect signatures endorsing snap elections. It is backed by most opposition figures.
A spokesman for the Rebel campaign, which accuses the president of failing to improve the lives of ordinary Egyptians, announced Saturday that the campaign was able to gather over 22,000,000 signatures.
President Morsi has repeatedly dismissed calls for early presidential elections on grounds that it would be unconstitutional.
Supporters of President Morsi accuse the campaign of being unconstitutional and “an infringement of the popular will.”
Morsi was elected in June 2012 in Egypt’s first-ever free presidential elections, narrowly defeating Ahmed Shafiq, ousted president Mubarak’s last prime minister.