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Behind the scenes: Details of secret meetings between El-Baradei and Bishr

Al-Ahram reveals behind the scenes information on the dispersal of Rabaa and Al-Nahda sit-ins, the lost opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood and El-Baradei's agreement with Bishr.

After renewed talk of the dialogue between the Muslim Brotherhood and the state to achieve national reconciliation, Al-Ahram newspaper tried to find out the developments in the negotiation, the surprise was when a source from the Brotherhood, associated with the current negotiations, revealed that the greatest chance of achieving reconciliation was during the time just days before the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Al-Nahda Squares sit-ins. The source said that was the best chance they had as they had agreed on everything.

The source, who provided Al-Ahram with the details of the "lost chance", said that during the Eid Al-Adha holiday and before the dispersal of the sit-ins, Dr Mohamed El-Baradei, the vice president at the time, called Dr Muhammad Ali Bishr and told him he wanted to meet him urgently.

The source added: "The two parties met the day after the phone call. Dr El-Baradei told Dr Bishr that the decision to disperse the sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Al-Nahda Squares had been made." The vice president had called on Bishr to help him avoid the dispersal and achieve national reconciliation.

The Brotherhood source said: "El-Baradei informed Bishr that he received a mandate from the president, the government and the Armed Forces leaders to achieve national reconciliation," explaining that his efforts for reconciliation were strongly backed by the General Intelligence Service and Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Bishr told El-Baradei that he too had been given a mandate from the Brotherhood and the National Alliance to reach an understanding with the state and to resolve the political crisis plaguing the country.

Furthermore, the source said Bishr was convinced that there was no way the state administration would back down from its decision to depose Dr Mohamed Morsi and there was no moving forward with the full implementation of the terms of the roadmap.

The source also noted that both El-Baradei and Bishr were keen to remain absolutely frank with one another, explaining that they set a framework to resolve the political crisis in the country. When Bishr asked about the guarantee of the state committing to the agreement, El-Baradei agreed that the agreement would be under auspices of the European Union in order to ensure its implementation.

He added: "The parties agreed to resolve the political crisis by having the Brotherhood remove its members from the sit-ins in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Al-Nahda Squares and then the state would step in and disperse the sit-ins without shedding a drop of blood."

He also pointed out that Bishr and El-Baradei agreed to continue to refer to what happened as a military coup, but that the Brotherhood would not continue to protest and that no Egyptian blood would be shed.

The source pointed out that Bishr and El-Baradei agreed to stop investigations in to Brotherhood leaders, except those involved in murder cases and that Morsi would be released at a later time when the situation in the country became stable. It was also agreed that Morsi would move to any other country, adding that the two sides agreed to allow the Freedom and Justice Party and the rest of the coalition parties to continue their political work with full freedom and that they will be represented in the committee amending the constitution.

After the meeting in which all the terms for national reconciliation were determined, Bishr headed to Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and El-Baradei went to the state leaders, who gave their blessings to the plan. Bishr pressured the Brotherhood to agree to the reconciliation.

According to the source, three days before the dispersal of the sit-ins and two days after the aforementioned meeting, El-Baradei contacted Bishr to agree on the implementation of the agreement and the two sides met once again.

The obstacle hindering the implementation of the plan was that Bishr told El-Baradei that the evacuation of Rabaa Al-Adawiyya would be easy, but evacuating Al-Nahda would be very difficult, especially since it was controlled by the "Hazimoon" group and Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya.

After this conversation, the concern was leaked to the vice president. El-Baradei asked Bishr's permission to involve a third individual in the dialogue, and according to the source's story, this individual was an official in the Egyptian General Intelligence Service.

Bishr repeated the same concerns regarding the sit-in in Al-Nahda square to both El-Baradei and the new individual, but the senior officer, whose name and position we do not know, told Bishr that the state will not allow the dispersal of one sit-in and the remainder of another, as those dispersed from the first would then move to the other.

In an attempt to contain the crisis, El-Baradei suggested that they involve Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya in the negotiations, but the senior official assured him that Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya would not object to achieving reconciliation.

The three individuals agreed to hold a meeting on the same night in the presence of Tareq Al-Zumar in order to complete the deal. Everyone was present that night and Al-Zumr tried to bargain with Bishr. The senior official hinted to Al-Zumr that they made a deal with the state already and there was no need to bargain, but Bishr was not aware at the time.

According to the Muslim Brotherhood source, the Brotherhood began evacuating the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square, but Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya gathered more of its supporters in Al-Nahda on the morning of the dispersal of the sit-in.

The Brotherhood removed hundreds of men, but not women, according to some reports, from the sit-ins in microbuses. This was proved by the photos and videos taken by the media, who were unaware that an agreement had been made.

The source had no more details of the story, Al-Ahram spoke to a security source, who confirmed the credibility of the information, pointing out that there was a betrayal on the part of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, involving some of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

The security source also mentioned that Mustafa Hamza and Refaah Ahmed Taha, two officials in Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya's military wing during the nineties, were involved in the sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Squar, and had made a deal with Mohi Hamid, Hussam Abu Bakr, Osama Yassin and Mohamed Hafez to abort Bishr's plan by announcing a public warning.

The source revealed that the General Intelligence Service was aware of their plan and had monitored the communication between the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Rabaa and in the other Egyptian governorates, in which they called for a public warning. They also informed El-Baradei of this, but the vice president did not give up and asked for a few hours to complete the negotiations.

The negotiations were resumed, but it was too late. Mustafa Hamza and Refaah Ahmed Taha had already directed members of the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya to attack police and church headquarters.

It was at this point that General Intelligence Service members intervened and advised that it was imperative to disperse the sit-in at any price because Bishr did not make the Brotherhood decisions and Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya had already carried out their plan.

With regards to the accuracy of what the senior official hinted to Al-Zumr during their meeting regarding Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya making a deal with the state, the security source said, "Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya sold the Brotherhood at dawn on Friday July 5, less than 48 hours after the announcement of the roadmap."

He added that Essam Derbala called one of the mediators and asked him to intervene to end the political crisis. The mediator had contacted the police and General Intelligence Service on Thursday night and Friday morning and they agreed that Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya would share their point of view in exchange for stopping the prosecution of Assem Abdel-Maged and other group leaders.

The source went on to say: "In light of this, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya issued a statement saying it was willing to accept a new transition phase and in exchange, the surveillance of Assem Abdel–Maged's car would stop. He was allows to enter the sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adawiyya in order to calm the situation down. Although Abdel-Maged would commit to the agreement at times and escalate matters at others, Derbala continued to assure that Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya was committed to the agreement."

The security source concluded by saying: "Foolishness got the best of those who fell for it. The reconciliation agreement sessions were aborted by the Brotherhood, the betrayal of the agreement was deliberated within the Islamist camp by means of cheap bargaining and reckless behaviour on the part of some of their leaders."

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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