Egypt: Ashton holds wide ranging talks with key figures during visit
In Egypt for the second time in two weeks, the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held talks with a broad range of political figures. During her visit she met with Adli Mansour, Egypt's interim president; Mohamed El Baradei, the vice president for international affairs; Prime Minister Hazem el-Biblawi and army chief General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
She also met with representatives of Al Nour, the Freedom and Justice party - as well as representatives of the Tamarod movement.
In a late night meeting she also held "in-depth" two hour discussions with Mohamed Morsi. In doing so she became the first foreign official to meet him since he was removed from office.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday morning (30 July) in Cairo, Ashton said of Mr Morsi: "He's well and we had a friendly and open and very frank discussion for the 2 hours I saw him. I saw where he was, I don't know where he is but I saw the facilities he has, and we had a long discussion. You know I met with him many times before. I sent him good wishes from people here and he asked me to pass on wishes back, and of course I tried to make sure that his family know that he's well."
Her message was that violence should stop and that it was for all Egyptians to solve the country's political crisis in an inclusive manner. In going to Cairo, she was responding to the requests of various stakeholders and interlocuters in Egypt and internationally who had requested that she visit.
Ashton – EU is "here to help – not impose"
She said that "in all of my conversations, I have emphasised a few things. First of all, we are here to help. We are not here to impose. The people of Egypt will determine their own future and those who have the privilege to be in leadership positions have the responsibility to ensure that that happens. We have some experience that might be of value and we can help by having conversations with everyone, to listen, and to be able to offer some thoughts."
She also said that "and that includes elections in the future that we said we would be very happy to observe. And help with the process. And we recognize the importance of what is going to happen in terms of the constitution and the people working on that. I will be talking later this morning with Mohamed ElBaradei again and I will of course stand ready to come back to Egypt if I can be of further service."
Egypt must move forward in "inclusive way"
She went on to say that "I think all of the people that I've been talking with are absolutely aware that this great country has to move forward and has to do so in an inclusive way. I urge everyone to think very carefully about how you include everybody in the process because it's of enormous importance that what I call building deep democracy continues: civilian government going forward, elections, everyone participating and building the institutions that will ensure a deeper democracy for the country for the future. And that means having to think about the different positions, starting points that understandably people have."
Call to end violence – deplore loss of life
Before leaving for Egypt Catherine Ashton said in a statement she was going "to speak to all sides and to reinforce our message that there must be a fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. This process must lead - as soon as possible - to constitutional order, free and fair elections and a civilian-led government."
She went on to say that "I will also repeat my call to end all violence. I deeply deplore the loss of life. The EU is determined to help the Egyptian people on their journey to a stable, prosperous and democratic Egypt."