The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met with deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi at his secret detention facility on Monday. She is the first outsider allowed to see Mursi since he was overthrown by the army on July 3.
Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood won the elections after the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak. Since the July 3 coup the military has launched a crackdown against his supporters which has thrown Egypt into chaos, but the army has ruled out allowing him to play any role in ending the turmoil.
Ashton met with Mursi for two hours and described the talk “friendly, open and very frank”. She said he is well and has access to television and newspapers. She was flown to the secret location by military helicopter at night.
Ashton has met with the nation’s rulers and the Brotherhood in an effort to prevent further bloodshed. Some 300 people have been killed in violence since Mursi was overthrown.
Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei made clear at a joint news conference with Ashton that Mursi would not be a part of any future process of negotiation and reconciliation, but said the new government wants the Brotherhood to be part of the political process.
The government blames the recent violence on its foes, but ElBaradei said an end to the violence would create room for dialogue. The Brotherhood accuses the security forces of instigating the violence to justify their crackdown on the Islamists.
There has been much speculation in the media as to why the government allowed Ashton to meet with Mursi. She denied carrying an offer of safe exile in exchange for him renouncing the presidency.
The government’s new road map would have parliamentary elections in six months, followed by a presidential election. The Brotherhood accuses the army of a coup, and wants no part of the new road map. The army says its actions were a result of mass protests in June against Mursi. Image/Reuters