President Mohamed Morsi assured attendees of the national dialogue he had called for that the seven kidnapped soldiers in Sinai would be released and that he had ordered the immediate resolution of the issue.
Morsi had called for a national dialogue with political parties and leaders at the presidential palace on Sunday afternoon to discuss the best approach to the crisis. He also denied rumours of differences between him and the military.
“The prestige of the state is standing and no one can degrade it. All that is being said about differences between me and the military are evil, baseless rumours,” Morsi told the attending politicians.
The president also denied the state would be negotiating with the kidnappers and asserted that dialogue would only take place with Sinai’s sheikhs and tribal elders.
“We do not negotiate with criminals. These are criminals, not jihadists, and calling them jihadists is nonsense,” said Morsi.
He added that current top priorities would include the freeing of the kidnapped conscripts and ensuring that no Sinai civilians are harmed for their proximity to the kidnappers’ hiding place.
Morsi said his door was always open for national dialogue with opposition leaders. He then met with the ministers of interior, defence, and the intelligence chief for the third time since the crisis.
Opposition coalition the National Salvation Front, as well as several of its component parties, announced their boycott of the meeting and called on the president to take more serious action.
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped seven off-duty security personnel on Thursday; six of them belong to different sections of the Ministry of Interior and one of the detainees is a military volunteer non-commissioned officer with the Border Guards.
The kidnappers released a video of the soldiers on Sunday depicting them blindfolded and bound. They had one of them recite their demands, which include the release of Sinai political prisoners. Several families identified the soldiers in the videos as their children.