European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (Photo: Reuters)
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Wednesday that she was ready to go back to Egypt to “offer our support and help, not our interference” to the country.
Ashton has visited Egypt 11 times over the past two years. In her last visit in July, the top diplomat was the first foreign envoy to visit ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi since his removal by the military on 3 July.
In a speech to the European parliament in Brussels on Wednesday, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs said that in her visits she had consistently outlined the EU’s support for a constitution that can support democracy, for the rule of law, justice, and respect for human rights and freedoms.
"We remain in touch with the Egyptian authorities and politicians on all sides, on a regular basis. We don't take sides - we work to try and help to achieve the best for the people," she said.
The top diplomat recounted her fears at the growing levels of violence and polarisation in July after Morsi’s ouster.
"I could feel the antipathy to the Brotherhood and I could see the growing numbers of people on the streets, the growing worries of religious groups - the Christian community who later saw many churches destroyed," she said
The EU strongly condemned a violent crackdown on pro-Morsi protest camps by security forces in Cairo on 14 August which led to hundreds of deaths. Following the violence, the EU halted weapons exports by member states to Egypt. In her speech, Ashton proposed that the EU continue to fund “socio-economic projects” in Egypt that support vulnerable groups “in health, school feeding programmes, poor neighbourhoods and programmes for women."
She concluded by say that Egypt is a “great country” and a “strong partner for the European Union.”
“We want this country to succeed. We want to support it to do so - but to do so with the principles and values that we hold.”