EU’S Ashton holds two-hour talks with Morsi

Egypt’s interim government rules out ousted president playing role in reconciliation

A supporter of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, wearing a Morsi poster around his head, stands with other protesters during an anti-army rally that started from their sit-in area around Raba’ al-Adawya mosque, in Nasr City area, east of Cairo today. Photograph: Reuters.

A supporter of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, wearing a Morsi poster around his head, stands with other protesters during an anti-army rally that started from their sit-in area around Raba’ al-Adawya mosque, in Nasr City area, east of Cairo today. Photograph: Reuters.

 

Egypt’s rulers allowed EU envoy Catherine Ashton to meet deposed president Mohamed Morsi today. It was the first time an outsider was given access to him since the army overthrew him and jailed him a month ago, but his involvement in negotiations on Egypt’s future has been ruled out.

Mr Ashton, the EU’s most senior diplomat, revealed little about what she called a “friendly, open and very frank” two-hour conversation with Mr Morsi, after she was flown to an undisclosed location to visit him. An aide said they had “in-depth” talks.

“I’ve tried to make sure that his family know he is well,” said Ms Ashton, who has emerged as one of the only figures accepted by both sides as a potential mediator in a conflict that has plunged Egypt into violent confrontation.

Ms Ashton said Mr Morsi had access to television and was informed about the situation in the country. Nearly 300 people have been killed in violence since he was removed on July 3rd, including 80 of his supporters gunned down at dawn on Saturday.

The violence has raised global anxiety about Egypt as the authorities crackdown on 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.

Raising the prospect of more bloodshed, the Brotherhood has said it would hold marches again tomorrow, though twice this week it has failed to follow through on pledges to march to sensitive security facilities in Cairo.

Ms Ashton said the EU mediation effort would continue and she would return. “Any violence must stop. The people need to come together to find the road to the future together. Only an inclusive process will work,” she said, speaking alongside interim vice president Mohamed ElBaradei at a news conference.

Asked if Mr Morsi could be part of a future process of negotiations and reconciliation, Mr ElBaradei, part of the army-backed interim government, said: “No...I think there is a new road map. Mr Morsi failed, but the Brotherhood very much continue to be part of the political process and we would like them to continue to be part of the political process.”

Mr ElBaradei linked a start to dialogue to a halt to violence, which the government blames on its foes. “Once we contain the violence that is taking place, then there will be room for a peaceful way to disband the demonstrations in different parts of the country and go into a serious dialogue,” he said, referring to pro-Morsi sit-ins.

The Brotherhood accuses the security forces of being behind the violence to justify their crackdown on it. Media have speculated about why the military-backed rulers would have allowed Ms Ashton to meet the ousted leader who had been kept incommunicado for a month. She denied carrying an offer to Mr Morsi, who faces charges including murder, of “safe exit” if he were to renounce his claim to the presidency.

Reuters