U.S. Sens. McCain, Graham arrive in Egypt during political stalemate

Sen. Graham: Visit to Egypt still on
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Story highlights

  • McCain and Graham have arrived in Cairo
  • Egypt has been embroiled in chaos since Morsy was ousted in a coup last month
  • A longtime ally of the U.S., Egypt gets $1.3 billion in military aid a year
  • The U.S. helps Egypt because it's one of two Arab countries that made peace with Israel

In an attempt to break through the political impasse in Egypt, U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived in Cairo on Monday to meet with Egypt's interim leaders.

The two Republican senators are expected to meet Tuesday with interim President Adly Mansour, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, Egyptian foreign affairs spokesman Badr Abdelatty said.

They are also expected to meet separately with Muslim Brotherhood leadership.

McCain and Graham are making the trip at U.S. President Barack Obama's request.

"The Egyptian military must move more aggressively toward turning over control to the civilian population, civilian organizations," Graham, of South Carolina, said when asked about the purpose of the trip on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday. "The military can't keep running the country. We need democratic elections. The (Muslim) Brotherhood needs to get off the streets and back into the political arena and fight your differences there, and we need to put Egypt back to work. If this continues, it's going to be a failed state. That's why we're going."

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Egypt has been embroiled in chaos since the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy, was toppled in a coup last month.

But U.S. officials have refrained from calling the ouster a coup -- a term that could be worth $1.3 billion a year.

If the U.S. formally calls the move a coup, it would have to cut off that aid. And that "would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said.

The United States helps Egypt because it's one of only two Arab countries -- along with Jordan -- that made peace with Israel. If Washington pulls its aid, it could affect prospects for peace in the Middle East.

In the last 30 years, only Israel has received more aid than Egypt from the United States.

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On Sunday, Graham said that he and Arizona's McCain had blocked a push to cut off aid to Egypt.

"I want to keep the aid flowing to Egypt," he said, "but it has to be with the understanding that Egypt's going to march toward democracy, not toward a military dictatorship. And that's the message we're going to send to the Muslim Brotherhood. The only way you're going to be part of Egypt is to allow Egypt to get back to work. Stop playing politics."

The roots of chaos

Clashes between opposing protesters or between protesters and Egyptian security forces have left hundreds of Egyptians dead in recent weeks.

Morsy supporters have camped out for weeks in crowded Cairo streets, demanding Morsy be reinstated.

Meanwhile, secularists and liberals -- whose protests led to Morsy's ouster -- have started supporting the current military-backed government.

Morsy became Egypt's first democratically elected president in June 2012, after popular protests forced the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country for 30 years.

But a year into Morsy's term, many Egyptians wanted him out, too. They said the Western-educated Islamist -- and former head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party -- had not been inclusive since taking office. Critics said he failed to deliver on the people's aspirations for freedom and social justice.

But Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman Mona al Qazzaz accused the military and opposition of "killing the biggest democracy in the Middle East."

"The military stepped in, and the opposition that failed to win through the ballot boxes came on the back of the tanks," she said.

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