Mohammed Mursi

Top EU diplomat meets deposed Egyptian leader Mursi

Rights activists accuse government of using anti-Mursi sentiment to restore brutal pre-2011 police

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 2:49am

The European Union's top diplomat, who met deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi on Monday, said he was well. She also said she had impressed on all those she met in Egypt the need to move forward peacefully following Mursi's ousting nearly a month ago.

Catherine Ashton called for an inclusive political process and an end to the violence that has left the Arab world's most populous nation deeply divided between opponents and supporters of the ousted Islamist leader.

Mursi's meeting with Ashton was his first contact with the outside world since he was removed from office by the military on July 3.

She was allowed to meet the toppled leader for two hours on Monday evening, and said she was able to see the facilities where he was being held, but does not know where they were.

Ashton was not blindfolded, but the location of her meeting with Mursi remained shrouded in mystery.

EU spokesman Michael Mann said EU officials put their "faith fully in the interim authorities to make sure that she got there safely and returned safely which is what turned out to be the case. Everything was fine."

EU security personnel must have had enough guidance on travel and location to back the exceptional excursion. "She would not have gone had she not been happy with the security arrangements," said the EU spokesman.

Ashton said Mursi "has access to information, in terms of TV and newspapers, so we were able to talk about the situation, and we were able to talk about the need to move forward".

"I sent him good wishes from people here, and he asked me to pass on wishes back, and of course I've tried to make sure that his family knows that he is well," she said.

She declined to reveal more details about their conversation.

Her three-day trip to Cairo was her second since his ousting, as she tries to help find a way out of an increasingly bloody and complex crisis in Egypt that has killed more than 270 people. She said she returned to Cairo at the request of several interlocutors in Egypt and elsewhere so that the EU could engage with different political parties.

Ashton also met the country's interim leadership, including army chief and defence minister General Abdelfattah Said El-Sisi, as well as representatives of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood in search of a path out of the crisis.

"This great country has to move forward and has to do so in an inclusive way," she said.

Interim Vice-President Mohamed ElBaradei also said the top priority was to end all violence first, then to engage in a process that included the Muslim Brotherhood as the country tries to rebuild after more than two years of turmoil that began with the uprising in 2011 that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.