Ashton meets with Morsi for first time since Egypt ouster

EU envoy finds deposed leader well, with access to tv and newspapers; says did not offer "safe exit" out of Egypt.

By REUTERS
July 30, 2013 12:35
2 minute read.
Now ousted Egypt president Morsi meets with EU chief Ashton back in November 2012.

morsi meets with ashton 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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CAIRO - European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday she found that deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was well and had access to television and newspapers when she visited him.

Ashton was speaking to journalists after meeting Morsi at an undisclosed location on Monday night. "I've tried to make sure that his family know he is well," said Ashton.

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Ashton, who is trying to mediate a resolution to Egypt's political crisis, added: "I said I wouldn't come unless I could see him (Morsi)." Asked about a media report that she had offered Morsi a "safe exit", she replied: "I did nothing of the kind."

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held two hours of "in depth" discussions with Morsi late on Monday, her spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Twitter. Kocijancic did not say where the talks had taken place.

Morsi has been held incommunicado since the military removed him from power on July 3. Egypt's authorities say he is being investigated for charges including murder, stemming from a 2011 jailbreak when he escaped detention during protests against former autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Ashton, Europe's top diplomat, has been shuttling between Egypt's rulers and the Muslim Brotherhood to try to pull the country back from more bloodshed as one of the only outsiders that is accepted by both sides as a potential mediator.

Foreign countries are urging the military-backed rulers to reach compromise with Morsi's Brotherhood to bring the country back from the brink of further bloodshed. Eighty Brotherhood supporters were gunned down on Saturday.



The government has ordered the Brotherhood to abandon a vigil it has maintained with thousands of supporters camping out to demand Morsi's return. The Brotherhood says it will not leave the streets unless Morsi is restored.

"It's very simple, we are not going anywhere," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "We are going to increase the protest."

Raising the prospect of more bloodshed, the Brotherhood has said it would hold marches again on Tuesday.

The violence has raised global anxiety that the army may try to crush the Brotherhood, a movement which emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in elections after Egypt's 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

The White House, treading a fine line with a pivotal Arab ally that it funds with $1.3 billion a year in military aid, said on Monday it "strongly condemns" Saturday's bloodshed, and urged respect for the right to peaceful protest.

"Violence not only further sets back the process of reconciliation and democratization in Egypt, but it will negatively impact regional stability," spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Ashton met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the army and the man who overthrew Egypt's first freely-elected president. She also held talks with members of the interim government installed by the army, and with representatives of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing.

Thousands of Brotherhood supporters have been camped out for a month at Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, demanding Morsi's reinstatement and defying threats by the army-backed authorities to remove them.

Ashton was expected to speak to reporters on Tuesday. Before arriving, she said she would press for a "fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood".

Ashton attempted to serve as a mediator earlier this year and is seen by both sides as an important neutral voice in a country where Washington is looked upon with suspicion.

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