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EU's Ashton meets with Egypt political forces

Foreign policy chief insists that EU will not meddle in Egyptian affairs, stresses importance of inclusive political transition

Ahram Online, Thursday 3 Oct 2013
Egypt
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton (L) meets with Muslim Brotherhood representatives in Cairo October 2, (Photo: Reuters).
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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stressed on Thursday the importance of including all political forces in Egypt's transition, adding that the European Union was not leading any mediation between the country's political forces, according to Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

"In terms of inclusiveness, it means trying to involve everyone, that also means reaching out to each other," Ashton said.

"We don't insist on anything, this is your country," she added, however.

Analysts have interpreted Ashton's three-day visit to Cairo, which began on Tuesday, as a renewed attempt to broach a settlement between the transitional government and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are at odds since the popularly-backed military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July.

The preceding months have witnessed a security crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, with hundreds killed and arrested.

On Thursday, Ashton also condemned the killing of Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, expressing her concern regarding the situation in the restive peninsula.

Egypt's military says it is waging a war against terrorism in the Northern Sinai Peninsula, where militants have stepped up their attacks against security forces since Morsi's ouster.

Ashton also denied any contact with former vice president Mohammed ElBaradei. "I think he is in Europe, I haven't spoken to him recently."

ElBaradei resigned from his position as vice president on 14 August in objection to the violent dispersal of pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo by security forces, which left hundreds dead.

The Nobel peace laureate has been subject to a smear campaign by some journalists and politicians who charge that his resignation was "unpatriotic" and accuse him of abandoning the government at a critical moment. He was recently accused by opponents of collaborating with the international Muslim Brotherhood organisation to sabotage the post-Morsi government. However, no meeting between ElBaradei and members of the Muslim Brotherhood was confirmed.

Earlier Thursday, Ashton met with Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sissi before discussing the country's latest political developments with interim President Adly Mansour.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic website, Mansour said Egypt was committed to the transitional roadmap it adopted following Morsi's ouster.

Ashton also met with Egypt's deputy prime minister and international cooperation minister Ziad Bahaa El-Din, who presented the interim government's latest measures to guarantee economic recovery.

Bahaa El-Din called on the EU to reinforce its aid programs aiming at ensuring Egypt's political stability and economic development.

On Wednesday, Ashton met with Amr Moussa, the head of Egypt's constitution-drafting body head. The former Arab League secretary general said Ashton did not interfere in the constitution-amending process, but wanted to ensure it was being conducted in an inclusive way. Talks also covered how Egypt's transitional roadmap – announced by El-Sisi after Morsi's ouster – was shaping up.

Ashton also met on Wednesday with Egypt's highest religious leaders, Coptic Pope Tawadros II and Al-Azhar's Grand Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb.

She also held talks with representatives of Morsi's main opposition coalition the National Salvation Front, the Pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, and the Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist party taking part in the country's political transition.

Egypt's transitional roadmap involves endorsing a new constitution through a national referendum, with parliamentary and presidential elections to follow.

Ashton has repeatedly urged Egypt to adopt an inclusive democratic process that engages all factions. She has voiced alarm over the use of violence against Morsi supporters and a deepening polarisation since his exit.

Ashton left Cairo on Thursday, concluding her third visit to Egypt since Morsi's ouster.

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