EU foreign policy chief meets former Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi

Tuesday 30 July 2013 17.16
A supporter of Mursi raises a portrait of him during a demonstration against the government in Cairo
A supporter of Mursi raises a portrait of him during a demonstration against the government in Cairo

Egypt's rulers have allowed an EU envoy to meet deposed president Mohammed Mursi, but have ruled out involving him in any negotiations.

It is the first time an outsider has been given access to Mr Mursi since the army overthrew him and jailed him a month ago.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was flown to an undisclosed location to visit him.

She revealed little about what she called a "friendly, open and very frank" two-hour conversation with the former leader.

An aide said they had "in-depth" talks.

Ms Ashton has emerged as one of the only figures accepted by both sides as a potential mediator in a conflict that has plunged the most populous Arab state into violent confrontation.

She said: "I've tried to make sure that his family know he is well."

Mr Mursi had access to television and was informed about the situation in the country, she added.

Nearly 300 people have been killed in violence since Mr Mursi was removed on 3 July, including 80 of his supporters gunned down at dawn on Saturday.

The violence has raised global anxiety about Egypt as the authorities crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood movement emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in elections after Egypt's 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

Raising the prospect of more bloodshed, the Brotherhood has said it would hold marches again today.

However, it has failed twice this week to follow through on pledges to march to sensitive security facilities in Cairo.

Ms Ashton said the EU mediation effort would continue and she would return.

"Any violence must stop. The people need to come together to find the road to the future together. Only an inclusive process will work," she said, speaking alongside interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei at a news conference.

Asked if Mr Mursi could be part of a future process of negotiations and reconciliation, Mr ElBaradei, part of the army-backed interim government, said: "No."

"I think there is a new road map. Mr Mursi failed, but the Brotherhood very much continue to be part of the political process and we would like them to continue to be part of the political process."

Mr ElBaradei linked a start to dialogue to a halt to violence, which the government blames on its foes.