Corker: US should urge ‘calm’ in Egypt

The top Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on Sunday said the U.S. should urge calm and press Egypt’s military to work towards restoring democracy, as the country faces another week of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of deposed President Mohamed Morsi.

"I don't know what else our nation can do at this time other than urge the military to move along in a responsible way," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on “Fox News Sunday.’

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"What we should be doing right now is urging calmness, urging the military to move through this civilian process for as quickly as possible, to ask the Muslim Brotherhood to act with some degree of responsibility," Corker added. "Our role right now should be one of applying calm, trying to get our partners in the region to do the same thing."

Egypt has exploded into violence following the military ouster of Morsi, with his Muslim Brotherhood party vowing to fight for his return.

The military placed Morsi under house arrest last week, also detaining a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders. On Friday, over 30 people were killed when Morsi supporters clashed with opponents and the military.

The Obama administration has condemned the violence and urged the military and Muslim Brotherhood to find a peaceful accord, but has avoided choosing sides in the Egyptian standoff.

Corker’s comments were mirrored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, who said that the U.S. should press quickly for a return to democracy, but that the dispute was ultimately up to Egyptians to resolve.

"We have to be a force of stability, support for a very quick transition to a fully elected democratic government," said Reed.

Neither lawmaker offered many specifics on how the U.S. could help Egypt return to civilian rule.

"The military has to make clear what their timetable is and they have to be inclusive," said Reed. "We have to actively engage regional powers particularly with economic assistance to Egypt."

Both though disagreed with the assessment of Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that the administration should cut off aid to Egypt, arguing that it could cause further turmoil in the country. 

Part of the cause of widespread discontent with Morsi was Egypt's severe economic struggles rather than unhappiness with his Islamic leadership.

Corker said the focus should be on restoring democracy, adding that there would be "plenty of time" to discuss foreign aid in the future.

"We have to be very, very careful in terms of suspending aid or cutting it off," Reed also warned.

Reed also refused to call the military's overthrow of Egypt's first democratically elected government a coup, calling the situation "very unique" because Morsi's regime was "becoming increasingly authoritarian."

The White House has also declined to label the military takeover a “coup,” because that language could block the $1.5 billion in aid sent to Cairo each year.