Egyptian army vows to intervene to calm political tensions
The Egyptian army will not allow competing political factions to tear the country apart, Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said Sunday, adding the military is prepared to intervene if ongoing political turmoil flares out of control, dpa reported.
The statement comes as the country braces for rival protests next week in the run-up to the one-year anniversary of President Mohammad Morsi's taking office, on June 30.
"The armed forces recently avoided involvement in the political scene, but its national and moral responsibility towards people necessitates its intervention to prevent Egypt from slipping in a dark tunnel of conflict ... distrust, sectarian strife or the collapse of state institutions," he said.
The question of what role Egypt's military will play in the country's ongoing political tensions is key. The 2011 fall of former president Hosny Mubarak was precipitated when army forces pointedly refused to stop protests.
Al-Sissi's statement comes a week ahead of planned protests by the opposition to demand that Morsi step down and call for early presidential elections.
The self-styled Tamarod, or Rebellion, protest group, backed by the main opposition parties, plans a massive sit-in June 30 outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
On Friday, thousands of Islamists staged a rally in Cairo in a show of support for Morsi, where they called on people to stay home on June 30 as some of them waved the black flags of jihad.
Al-Sissi, who was appointed as minister and the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces by Morsi in August, urged politicians to reach consensus and reconciliation within the coming week.
"There is a state of division in the society and its continuation is a danger to the Egyptian state. There must be consensus among everyone," he said. "This state ... threatens our national security."
The statement seemed to address both sides of the polarized society, where Morsi's loyalists and opponents have held rival rallies in recent months that have occasionally descended into deadly clashes.
The opposition accuses Morsi of failing to either fulfil the objectives of the popular revolution that brought him to power nor those of reviving an ailing economy.
His supporters charge that the opposition is deliberately causing unrest on the streets to undercut the Islamist president's clout.