Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel placed yet another phone call to Egypt’s military leader on Tuesday to urge restraint in the army’s deadly street confrontations with supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
The latest Hagel phone call to Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, one of more than a dozen conversations between the two men since Morsi was deposed on July 3, came as Britain’s Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, met with Morsi at an undisclosed location outside Cairo.
"Only an inclusive process will work” in curbing the violence that has killed an estimated 300 demonstrators since July 3, Ashton said after more than two hours of talks with Morsi, who is being held under house arrest.
"And though I recognize that is challenging, it is really important to begin now," Ashton said.
In addition to calling for restraint, Hagel urged al-Sisi to heed Ashton’s plea for a speedy return to democratic rule despite continued street demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Morsi and their demands for his release.
At a news conference with Ashton, interim Vice President Mohamed El-Baradei said Morsi would not be released but he welcomed the participation of Brotherhood supporters in negotiations on new elections.
"I think there is a new road map," El-Baradei said. "Mr. Morsi failed, but the Brotherhood very much continue to be part of the political process, and we would like them to continue to be part of the political process."
Last week, following clashes between Brotherhood demonstrators and the military that left more than 60 dead, the U.S. Defense Department announced that the scheduled delivery of four F-16 attack aircraft to the Egyptian military was being suspended. The F-16s were part of the annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Egypt.
On Saturday, at least 80 more demonstrators were killed in renewed clashes with the military, but the White House given no signal that additional sanctions against Egypt were being considered.