Democracy is the only way for long-term stability in Egypt, said Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
"Democracy is the only viable path to lasting stability, national reconciliation, sustainable economic growth and the return of investment and tourism in Egypt," the Republican senators said in an opinion piece published on Friday in The Washington Post
"And democracy means more than elections.
"It means democratic governance: an inclusive political process in which all Egyptians are free and able to participate, so long as they do so nonviolently; the protection of basic human rights through the rule of law and the constitution; and a state that defends and fosters a vibrant civil society," they said.
McCain, who represents Arizona, and Graham, of South Carolina, visited Cairo earlier this week at the request of President Barack Obama to try to ease the political crisis brought on by the military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi last month.
The senators, both members of the Armed Services Committee, met with Egyptian Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of their visit.
"We returned convinced that time is quickly running out to resolve this crisis, but that there is still a chance to do so if Egyptians of goodwill come together for the sake of their country, which is the heart of the Arab world and home to a quarter of its people," the senators said.
"We are longtime friends of Egypt and its armed forces," McCain and Graham added. "But as we said again this week in Cairo, we find it difficult to describe the circumstances of Morsi's removal from office as anything other than a coup.
"Unsuccessful leaders in a democracy should leave office by losing elections."
The senators said that they also believed that Egyptians want democracy.
"But the danger now is that extremist and reactionary forces, some in the Egyptian state and some among Morsi’s supporters in the streets, want to drag the country down a dark path of violence, oppression and revenge," they said. "This is doomed to failure for both sides; it would make all of Egypt’s problems infinitely worse and ultimately threaten the national security interests of the United States and our allies."
They cautioned of the growing threat of al-Qaida and noted that its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, "is a former member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who was radicalized during the violent crackdowns and detentions of brotherhood leaders by previous Egyptian regimes.
"Repeating the worst mistakes of the past now will only condemn Egypt to a future of protracted instability and stagnation, while creating a new generation of radical recruits for terrorist groups such as al-Qaida."
Egyptians also accept that Morsi should not be reinstated as president, Graham and McCain said.
"It is essential for Morsi’s supporters, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to accept that his actions generated massive public discontent and that he will not be reinstated as president of Egypt; that they must refrain from acts and incitement of violence; and that eventually they will need to move out of the streets and into the political process, because there is no good or effective alternative to advance their interests," the senators said.
And any new government must be inclusive of all Egyptians.
"It is essential for the civilian government and armed forces to recognize that, no matter how much they may dislike Morsi’s supporters, they are Egyptians, too, and it is neither realistic nor right to try to exclude them from the life of their nation," the senators said. "This means dealing with them magnanimously, not vindictively. It means setting a specific timetable to achieve the transition to democracy and enabling all Egyptians to participate in amending the constitution.
"It means ensuring that credible Egyptian and international organizations are able to observe the upcoming campaigns and elections. And it means releasing political prisoners, including Morsi supporters."
McCain and Graham concluded: "We still believe Egypt can serve as a model of inclusive democracy that can inspire the region and the world, and, in this great endeavor, the United States must continue to offer its support."
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