CAIRO, Egypt (AFP) – Egypt’s interior ministry promised Mohamed Morsi’s supporters “safe exit” Thursday if they quickly leave their Cairo protest camps, as police prepared to disperse them amid international appeals for restraint.
The call to disperse came after an early Thursday meeting in which police commanders discussed how to carry out orders from the military-installed interim government to end the protests, the ministry said in a statement.
Diplomatic efforts to avoid further bloodshed meanwhile picked up pace, with EU Middle East envoy Bernardino Leon and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle both arriving in Cairo to urge the rival camps to find common ground.
The interior ministry “calls on those in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares to let reason and the national interest prevail, and to quicky leave,” it said in a statement.
The ministry “pledges a safe exit and full protection to whoever responds to this appeal,” the statement added.
Morsi’s supporters had vowed to defy the crackdown ordered by the interim government on Wednesday, and called for a mass rally on Friday.
Ministers had ordered police to end sit-ins and marches by Morsi’s Islamist supporters, saying they amounted to a “national security threat.”
The orders raised fears of new violence, less than a week after 82 people were killed in clashes at a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo.
The international community, which has expressed mounting concern over the violence since Morsi’s July 3 ouster, warned against further bloodshed.
The German foreign minister, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, urged both sides to remain peaceful and seek an inclusive solution.
“I am here to encourage all political forces to engage in dialogue,” he said at a press conference Thursday with his Egyptian counterpart Nabil Fahmy.
Later, Westerwelle was scheduled to meet Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour and representatives of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties.
EU envoy Leon also landed in Cairo on Wednesday, to follow up on three days of intensive diplomacy by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The U.S. State Department called on the interim authorities to “respect the right of peaceful assemblies.”