The United States said Tuesday it was “cautiously encouraged” by a timeline proposed by Egypt’s interim rulers for elections to replace ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
Washington also again walked a fine line on the issue of whether it would brand the military takeover as a “coup” — a move that under US law would force it to cut $1.5 billion in US aid.
Despite rising domestic political pressure, the White House says it will take its time on making such a judgment, seeking to preserve the limited leverage it has amid turbulent political events in Egypt.
“We are cautiously encouraged by the announcement by the interim government that it (has) a potential plan for moving forward with a democratic process and elections, both parliamentary and presidential,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“We call on all parties to engage in a dialogue about that process and not to, you know, refuse to participate.”
Such calls however appear likely to fall on deaf ears, with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, already rejecting the transition blueprint which would replace a suspended Islamist-drafted constitution.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday reached out to several key leaders in the region, calling Qatar’s new emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.
In both calls, he urged the leaders to use their influence in Egypt to press each side in the political standoff to avoid violence and to hasten the return of a democractic government.
The transition plan, set up by Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour, would see fresh parliamentary elections in the coming months, with a presidential vote possible by early next year.
The military drove Morsi from power last week and arrested him after millions of protesters took to the streets to demand his ouster, saying his government had failed the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
The Brotherhood has held its own mass protests in recent days, and on Monday more than 50 people were killed when the military opened fire on demonstrators in Cairo.
Obama’s administration says that withdrawing aid to Cairo to protest the overthrow of Morsi at this stage would not be in US interests.
The State Department and the White House are calling on the Brotherhood to take part in the transition. But they face questions as to why the group should participate since their democratically elected government was ousted by the military.
“We know this is not going to be an easy process, but that’s what we’ll continue to encourage,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The United States provides $1.5 billion of mostly military aid to Egypt — a key regional ally — every year, but is legally barred from aiding countries in which the military overthrows an elected government.
Morsi opponents insist the military’s action was not a coup but a necessary response to widespread rejection of a failed government.