EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Catherine Ashton meeting with presidential hopeful Abde Fattah El-Sisi, Cairo, Egypt, April 10, 2014 (Photo: Delegation of European Union in Egypt)
European Union observers will monitor Egypt's upcoming presidential elections under an agreement concluded Thursday between visiting EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, a joint statement said.
The statement added that Ashton welcomed the expected singing of the necessary agreements with the country's electoral committee and foreign ministry "allowing the unobstructed movement of EU observers throughout the country and access to all legal political parties".
"The mission will undertake its work and make assessment of the election process impartially and neutrally," the statement continued, asserting that "both sides are looking forward to a transparent and credible vote".
Former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is widely believed to lead the 26-27 May presidential race, given his sweeping popularity since he led the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last summer on the back of massive nationwide protests against the latter's rule.
A new president should be sworn in early June, if run-off elections – scheduled for 16-17 June – prove unnecessary.
Other declared contenders in the vote so far are leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 presidential elections won by Morsi, and controversial lawyer Mortada Mansour, publicly perceived as a loyalist of former autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Ashton arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for a two-day visit in which she held talks with senior government officials. She also met El-Sisi and planned to meet presidential hopeful Sabahi but was prevented by time constraints, an official of the EU delegation in Egypt told state news agency MENA.