Obama condemns ongoing violence in Egypt, avoids taking sides

The White House late Saturday issued a statement condemning the ongoing violence in Egypt while avoiding taking sides in the ongoing conflict in the country, following a meeting President Obama held with his National Security Council.

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"The United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt's transition should proceed," the statement reads. "We remain committed to the Egyptian people and their aspirations for democracy, economy opportunity, and dignity.  But the future path of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people."

The ongoing tumult in Egypt reached new heights on Saturday, as clashes continued between backers of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, which earlier this week ousted President Mohamed Morsi and overthrew Egypt's first democratically elected government.

The military coup followed weeks of demonstrations by more secular and liberal Egyptians protesting  Morsi's leadership.

The Obama administration has said its military aid to Egypt was under review following Morsi's ouster. But it has so far been careful to take a hands-off approach in the bloody dispute, which has spread across the country.

"During this transitional period, we call on all Egyptians to come together in an inclusive process that allows for the participation of all groups and political parties. Throughout that process, the United States will continue to engage the Egyptian people in a spirit of partnership, consistent with our longstanding friendship and shared interests — including our interest in a transition to sustainable democracy," the statement continues.

"We urge all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters, just as we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully.  As Egyptians look forward, we call on all sides to bridge Egypt's divisions, reject reprisals, and join together to restore stability and Egypt’s democracy."

"At this sensitive moment, we call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and prevent further violence among their supporters and we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a separate statement late Saturday.

The State Department said Kerry has reiterated the call for violence to cease in his calls to counterparts since the unrest intensified.

Kerry “has been in hourly touch with Ambassador Patterson and in the last two days he has also spoken with Mohamed Elbaradei, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, Omani Sultan Qaboos, Emirati Foreign Minister bin Zayed, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu,” the department said.

"Yesterday and today, Secretary Hagel spoke to Egyptian Defense Minister al-Sisi on three occasions to discuss on-going events in Egypt,” a Pentagon spokesman said. “In their conversations, Secretary Hagel emphasized the need for a peaceful civilian transition in Egypt. He also noted the importance of security for the Egyptian people, Egypt's neighbors, and the region.”

Hagel also spoke to Crown Prince bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates about Egypt and “mutual security concern in the Middle East," the spokesman said.

--This report was originally published at 4:58 p.m. and last updated at 10:47 p.m.

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