Egypt said on Friday it would hold parliamentary elections in February or March, with presidential polls in early summer.
The country’s Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, told the Reuters news agency that the political arm of ousted president Mohammed Morsi's banned Muslim Brotherhood could participate in the elections.
Fahmy's comments provided the most specific timeline yet for the end of the interim army-backed government and a return to electoral politics in Egypt, which since Morsi's ouster in July has seen some of the worst violence in its modern history.
Fahmy told Reuters in an interview that the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, "is still legal in Egypt" and free to participate in the parliamentary election.
The comments come two days after the Brotherhood lost an appeal against a court decision to ban the group. The ban, imposed in September, made illegal all of the group’s activities and seized its funds.
Speaking during a visit to Spain, Fahmy said presidential elections would be announced "by the end of next spring" and that the elections would be held a maximum of two months after the announcement.
"So you're looking at elections in the summer for president. That's the last step," he said, according to Reuters.
He had said in September that the transitional phase of government should end "by next spring", though he did not give specific dates at that time.
The elections will come after a referendum on a new constitution, which Fahmy said would be held in December. A 50-member committee is working on amending a constitution that was drafted under Morsi by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
Since July, the army-backed government has carried out a security crackdown on the Brotherhood. Its leaders are behind bars, as are more than 2,000 of its members and supporters. Hundreds of Islamists have been killed since the army takeover.
Daily "anti-coup" demonstrations, calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, have recently been held on university campuses, some of which have escalated into violent conflict. Last week, police stormed the Al-Azhar University campus in Cairo to disperse student protests after clashes erupted with staff members.
In August, police forcibly dispersed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo leaving hundreds dead. Since then, many of the group's members have been arrested, with some put on trial on charges of inciting violence.
Fahmy told Reuters Egypt had "moved forward more than people think", referring to the transitional period. He acknowledged, however, that the government was grappling with turmoil.
"We need to get a full hand on the security issues in Egypt but that is progressing, so we can receive tourists again," he said.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, the protests continued on Friday, as about 2,000 Brotherhood supporters gathered near one of the two pro-Morsi protest camps crushed by security forces in August.
In Giza, a 12-year-old boy was shot and killed in clashes between residents and supporters of Morsi, security sources said. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 19 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested.
In Alexandria, police fired tear gas at a march of 500-600 Brotherhood supporters in the neighborhood of the prison where Morsi is being held, a security source said.
Morsi’s trial began on Monday, but the first session was halted shortly after it began and will not resume until January 8.
The panel of judges trying Morsi ended the court session after Morsi refused to wear a prisoner's uniform and due to in-court disruption by the defendants, who were chanting "illegal, illegal.”
Morsi and 14 other Muslim Brotherhood figures face charges of inciting the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in 2012, when he was president.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)