Is this a blink, or just a PR ploy? The Muslim Brotherhood asked the EU to structure a framework for talks with the interim government, although without backing down from its demand to restore Mohamed Morsi as President:
The Muslim Brotherhood said on Thursday it had proposed through an EU go-between a framework for talks to resolve Egypt’s political crisis, its first formal announcement of an offer for negotiations since President Mohamed Mursi was toppled.
Brotherhood official Gehad el-Haddad, who represented the movement in previous EU-facilitated talks, told Reuters the proposal had been made to envoy Bernardino Leon before a visit on Wednesday by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton.
Leon confirmed he had offered the European Union’s “good offices” to help resolve the crisis, although he said the term “mediator” exaggerated the role.
The proposal, as described by Haddad, was still in its early stages. He did not give details, described it as only a “framework” for opening a channel of dialogue, and insisted on the Brotherhood’s firm demand that the July 3 “coup” that brought down Mursi be reversed.
Ashton met with the Brotherhood on her visit to Egypt, along with the interim government. US envoy William Burns pointedly avoided any official contact with the deposed party. That left the Brotherhood with only the EU to broker talks, a development that may impact American influence down the road but which probably provides a certain relief for the White House now, after its embarrassing track record on Egypt over the last two years.
This could just be a PR stunt for domestic consumption, but even a PR stunt shows that the Brotherhood’s position is weak. Their counterprotests have done nothing to move the rest of the nation into outrage over the coup, and some of their own protests have stoked anti-MB outrage even further. The move by the military has at least the acquiescence of most Egyptians, if not the approval. The Muslim Brotherhood needs an entree back into the political mix in order to argue for their legitimacy after the coup. Of course, they could have chosen to participate in the interim government, which offered them Cabinet positions, but they could hardly have continued to argue against the coup while legitimizing it with their participation.
In the basis of principle, there’s not much to discuss in an EU-brokered forum. The question for the Brotherhood is whether they will continue to stand on principle and get marginalized, or start acting pragmatically by ditching the unpopular Morsi and starting over again on democracy with the rest of the country by accepting a greater degree of pluralism. Until they make that decision, talks are going to be pointless.