Top News: Egypt heads to Geneva II, sees need for Syrian peace

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy will lead the Egyptian delegation to the conference, said ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty on Tuesday. “We hope all parties concerned will be serious and engage in negotiations and talks in order to achieve the ultimate objective, of course to stop the ongoing bloodshed and building a democracy in Syria and to reflect all Syrians and their differences,” said the spokesman. Abdelatty added that Egypt hopes for the implementation of the June 2012 Geneva Communiqué, which concerns the establishment of a transitional governing body. Fahmy sees Geneva II as being an crucial opportunity to achieve peace in Syria. Fahmy met on Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Switzerland’s Montreux on the sidelines of the conference. Fahmy also met on the sidelines with High Representative of the EU Catherine Ashton and discussed bilateral relations between Egypt and the European Union in various fields, as well as the Syrian crisis. Prime Minister Beblawy will also go to Geneva to participate in the Davos global economy conference. [DNEEGYNews (Arabic), 1/22/2014]


Election schedule to be announced within the month
President Adly Mansour will announce the schedule for presidential and parliamentary elections within the month according the newly-endorsed constitution, presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazy said Tuesday. Major General Rifaat Qumsan, elections adviser to the prime minister, said that the preparations for upcoming elections will depend on the decision to hold parliamentary before presidential elections or vice versa. In accordance with Article 230 of the new constitution, new elections should be announced by February 17 but does not specify the order for presidential or parliamentary ones. [DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), 1/22/2014]

Egypt’s interim president, interior minister meets with youth, party members
Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour met on Tuesday with youth representatives of political groups. According to a presidential statement, the four hour meeting was arranged to discuss the sentiment among youth who took part in the January revolution but believe they are being targeted with an intense defaming campaign. Mansour slammed the media attack against revolutionaries as “political stupidity,” saying a media code of ethics will soon be issued in collaboration with media figures and the National Council for Human Rights. He ruled out, however, that the any violence practiced by the police is systematic. Secretary general of the Egyptian Social Democratic party, Ahmed Fawzy expressed his fear that the meeting was nothing but a “talk session,” given that it had no agenda or intended outcome. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim also met with a delegation from the Tamarod Movement and other youth movements a few days before the official celebration of the third anniversary January 25 revolution. They said the minister promised to withdraw the police stationed outside universities once exams are finished and denied rumors about arbitrary arrests. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, SIS, Cairo Post, 1/22/2014]

Presidential adviser says MB and Mubarak regimes don’t belong to Egypt’s future
Mostafa Hegazy, the presidential advisor for strategic affairs, held a press conference held late Tuesday, where he insists that Egyptian authorities are not hunting down political activists, claiming that all citizens are operating under the same laws. He maintained that there’s no place for extremism in Egypt’s future, whether in the name of religion, the state, or corruption, and asserted that attempts were made to reconnect with the Brotherhood before they were officially declared a terrorist organization. Hegazy blamed the regime of Morsi’s predecessor, ex-president Hosni Mubarak, for first allowing the Brotherhood to exist. [Mada Masr, Ahram Online, SIS, 1/22/2014]

Also of Interest:
Top state circles consider Mowady instead of Sisi for presidency | Egypt Independent
Discussions between Hussein Salem and the government lead to a dead end | AMAY (Arabic)
Misr Balady Front calls on Sisi to run for presidency | DNE
Mansour, Sisi honor police ahead of 25 January anniversary | Ahram Online, MENA (Arabic)


Protesters sentenced to two years hard labor for defacing Tahrir monument
The Qasr al-Nil Misdemeanour Court sentenced on Wednesday three protesters to two years of labor and two years probation for defacing the Tahrir monument, which authorities say was built in memory of those who lost their lives during the January 25 and June 30 revolutions. One of the defendants, Sherif El-Serafi, is allegedly the founder of the Black Bloc group which championed violent opposition against the rule of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. The source did not reveal the political affiliation of the other indicted activists, Ahmed Abdel-Salam and Michael Botros. [DNE, Ahram Online, AP, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, AMAY (Arabic), 1/22/2014]

Six month sentence for burning flag
A man accused of burning the Egyptian flag was found guilty and sentenced to six months in prison on Tuesday by the Qasr Al-Nil Court. Prosecution demanded that the defendant be handed the maximum penalty, state-run Al-Ahram reported. The Egyptian flag and the national anthem are considered a “state symbol” in Egyptian law. Article 223 of the draft constitution states that “desecrating Egypt’s flag is a crime punishable by law.” Michael M. was arrested after he appeared in footage shown on satellite channels and YouTube while ripping and burring the Egyptian flag during the commemoration of Mohamed Mahmoud clashes last November.
[DNE, Aswat Masriya, 1/22/2014]

Also of interest:
Trial of four officers involved with Abou Zaabal deaths postponed | DNE, Egypt Independent
Mubarak-era information minister released on bail | Egypt Independent
Renewed detention of Ultras for fifteen days, accused of attempt to raid Tahrir | Shorouk (Arabic)
Five pro-Morsi supporters jailed for 15 days in Minya pending investigations | EGYNews (Arabic)
Wasat deputy to remain in custody despite release order | Ahram Online


Egyptian army to finance major roadways due to lack of state funding
Due to lack of state financing, Egypt’s army now has the green light to undertake the construction of a major roadway at a cost of EGP 7 billion, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency. Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved the project for a roadway called the Rod al-Farag Axis, which falls under the “strategic projects funded and carried out by the Armed Forces,” MENA reported. Construction of the roadway would cost a total of EGP 9 billion, of which the Armed Forces would pay EGP 7 billion. [Mada Masr, 1/22/2014]

Also of interest:
Egypt ranks first in Africa for tourism, second for trade in terms of ‘search engine appeal’ | DNE
Stocks in Egyptian stock market soar despite concerns over anniversary of 25 January | EGYNews (Arabic)
Dubai retailer Majid al-Futtaim to invest $2.3 billion in Egypt | Reuters
UAE total investment capital in Egypt valued at $4.6 billion: Saleh | Cairo Post
Egyptian workers saw economic and social deterioration in 2013: CTUWS report | Cairo Post
Egypt seeks to strengthen ties in Latin America | DNE, Shorouk (Arabic)
New minimum wage takes effect today in Egypt | Youm7
306306 Egypt fund launches today | Cairo Post


April 6 denounces fresh arrests, warns of ‘third revolution’  
April 6 Youth Movement has condemned the arrest of six of its members for distributing flyers calling for gatherings on the revolution’s anniversary. They were arrested at Cairo’s Shohada Metro station and detained for nine hours before being released without charge. “If your message is that the revolution happened so only [Mubarak] regime figures and pro-military people have their freedom, then a third revolution is on its way because of your actions. Your oppression of the youth for merely distributing flyers is a clear invitation to rebel against your injustices,” the statement read. [Ahram Online, 1/22/2014]

Muslim Brotherhood calls for restoration of unity, activists reject call
In a statement made ahead of the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood called on Egyptians to “unite in selfless devotion to the homeland, to restore the spirit of the January 25 Revolution.” Much of the statement accused the military, Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and judiciary of derailing the original goals of the revolution, admitting that the Muslim Brotherhood made a mistake aligning itself with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces in the power vacuum left by the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. It also apologized for its mistakes. Activist groups refused to join forces with the group. The group Revolutionary Socialists rejected the invitation saying, “Our goal is to create a third option so that people are not stuck between the military and the Brotherhood; there has to be a third way for those who want to continue the path of the revolution.” [DNE, Mada Masr, 1/22/2014]

Al-Jihad dissidents to stage pro-Sisi rallies on January 25
The moderate front for countering religious violence and excessiveness, which includes several al-Jihad dissidents, has declared participation in events on January 25 with a new initiative to support nomination of Defense Ministry Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for presidency and return of Muslim Brotherhood back to politics after abandoning violence. In a rally on Tuesday at the Egyptian Cultural Forum located downtown, the front called on the Salafi Dawa and its political arm Nour Party to stop the reap-the-rewards benefits and support Sisi as president. In a statement, the front warned whoever damages the state institutions saying this will not be accepted by the citizens that took part in referendum. [Egypt Independent, 1/22/2014]

Also of interest:
Al-Azhar’s power play | Mada Masr
Pope Tawadros says constitution first step towards the right path for Egypt | MENA (Arabic)
Brotherhood students fail to stage protests at Cairo University due to security precautions | AMAY (Arabic)
Egypt President Mansour to open Cairo International Book fair amid security concerns | Ahram Online
Attacks on journalists continue, says Egyptian rights watchdog | Ahram Online
Human Rights Watch offers up scathing appraisal of conditions in Egypt | DNE
Borhamy slams Qaradawy and Al Jazeera TV | Egypt Independent
Universities schedule midterm holiday for January 23 to February 22 to disrupt protests | Egypt Independent, AMAY (Arabic)


Muslim Brotherhood accused of planting improvised bomb in judge’s house
Explosives experts on Tuesday were able to defuse an improvised bomb found at the home of the head of the Judges’ Club head Ahmed El-Zend in Tanta, Gharbiya governorate. A bomb containing one and a half kilograms of explosives with a forty-second timer was placed outside his home. Gharbiya’s Security Director Osama Bedeir deployed a security patrol to the area, as well as nearby streets in the city, according to Al-Ahram‘s Arabic news website. The bomb had been planted by unknown assailants. Zend accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planting the bomb. “Such a criminal and cowardly act by the terrorist group is not strange to them,” Zend told the press. “I predicted that this would happen.” [Ahram Online, MENA, 1/22/2014]

Pro-Morsi demonstrators clash with security forces in Egypt’s Sharqiya
Clashes erupted on Tuesday between supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and security forces in the town of Belbeis, located in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the pro-Morsi demonstrators, who reportedly torched a police car and left a Central Security Forces (CSF) conscript injured from the clashes, according to Al-Ahram. [Ahram Online, 1/22/2014]

Egyptian militants Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claim rocket attack on Israel’s Eilat
An al Qaeda-inspired group in Egypt claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a rocket attack on Israel’s southern Eilat port, saying it would continue to target the Jewish state while battling the interim military government in Cairo. There were no casualties or damage from Monday night’s attack. Eilat residents reported hearing two explosions and a police spokesman said remains of a rocket were found in a desert area outside the Red Sea port on Tuesday. The Sinai-based militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem) said it was undeterred by Egyptian security sweeps. [Reuters, 1/22/2014]

Also of interest:
Molotov explodes in Cairo Metro, no injuries reported | Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya
Military spokesperson: Nine tunnels destroyed in Rafah | Egypt Independent
Egypt destroys nine tunnels and thwarts arms smuggling attempt says spokesman | Aswat Masriya


Diplomat takes reins of US Embassy in Egypt
The diplomat in charge of the US Embassy in Cairo has been replaced by his deputy, effective from Tuesday, according to an embassy press release. Marc Sievers, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission will head the embassy after David Satterfield, who has completed his assignment as Charge d’Affaires. Ambassador Ann Patterson’s position has not been filled since she left in late August. [Mada Masr, 1/22/2014]

Cairo describes US decision not to invite Egypt to a US-African summit as “wrong”
Ambassador Badr Abdel-Atti, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed surprise when Egypt was not invited to a US-Africa Summit in Washington. A White House spokesman said, “this summit is not held within the framework of the African Union. It is a summit between the United States and African countries, and Egypt has participated in similar meetings in other Western capitals recently.” The Egyptian spokesman said, “This US decision is wrong and short-sighted.” [Shorouk (Arabic), 1/22/2014]

Also of interest:
FM: Release of fifteen Egyptian fisherman who had been held in Libya | AMAY (Arabic)
Egypt discusses Palestine peace process at UN | DNE
Twenty-seven countries lift travel bans to Egypt, US eases travel restrictions | Egypt Independent

Image: Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy speaking during a conference on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on January 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP, Yasser al-Zayyat)