Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton, speaks during a press conference following an informal meeting of EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs at Zappeion Hall in Athens, on Saturday, April 5, 2014 (Photo: AP)
Ahead of her visit to Cairo this week to meet with Egyptian officials, the European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton told Ahram Online that the EU supports Egypt's upcoming presidential elections, which she said should have "good candidates coming forward."
Speaking from the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Ashton said she will meet on Thursday morning with Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour and Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy along with Egyptian NGO leaders.
"It is extremely important that Egypt brings people who believe in a democratic future to work together," Ashton said, adding that anyone who adopts violence must be stopped and condemned.
Ashton stressed the importance of Egypt's upcoming presidential elections set for May and ensured the EU's support of the electoral process in Egypt.
"We want to see good candidates coming forward so that the Egyptian people have a good choice," she said.
"We already see at least two candidates. We also want to see that this election is part of an inclusive process so that the people of Egypt can move forward together towards real economic and political opportunities for this great nation," Ashton added.
The main candidates so far for Egypt president are former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and long-time Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.
Ashton was the only Western leader to have met ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi after El-Sisi led his removal from power following mass protests against his rule.
Western countries have voiced criticism of what they deem undemocratic practices by Egypt's interim authorities. In March, 24 European countries signed a joint-statement at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) condemning what they said were breaches of human rights in Egypt.
"Sometimes we will say things Egyptians would prefer us not to have said, we are sometimes critical, but it is the criticism of friends," Ashton said.
"Those who are not engaged in terrorism, those who believe in a democratic future, have a place and should have a place in a democratic future of Egypt," she said.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood was deemed a terrorist organisation by Egypt's interim authorities in December, part of a widespread crackdown against the group's members and supporters, hundreds of whom have been killed by security forces since Morsi's ouster.
Militant groups have launched regular attacks on police and army forces, killing over 400 since August. The Brotherhood has repeatedly denied any links to the attacks.