EU foreign policy chief speedily exits Egypt press conference to catch a flight

Published July 31st, 2013 - 05:45 GMT
Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the European Union (World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons)
Catherine Ashton, foreign policy chief of the European Union (World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton abruptly excused herself during a press conference with Egyptian vice president Mohamed ElBaradei on Tuesday, saying she had to catch a flight.

Ashton was on a two-day trip in Egypt trying to broker a deal between rival parties. At the end of her trip, she held a press conference with ElBaradei in Cairo and during that the interview she abruptly excused herself.

“Sorry, can I just say that I, unfortunately, I am being told that I have to go because I have to catch a plane that will not wait for me, so forgive me, but he [ElBaradei] will carry on,” Ashton said.

She left the country after meetings with the country’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, interim president Adly Mansour, ousted President Mohammad Mursi and other youth and Islamist parties.

She said Mohammad Mursi, who has not been seen in public since being deposed on July 3, was “well,” but did not say where he was being held, according to AFP.

And neither the interim government nor Mursi’s supporters gave any indication that they had shifted their positions after her visit.

Mursi loyalists continued to rally throughout the day, despite stern warnings from the military and National Defense Council and the deaths of 82 people at a protest on Saturday.

They had announced a million-man march but instead held a series of smaller rallies that passed off peacefully, AFP reported.

“Mursi is well,” Ashton told reporters on Tuesday morning, after two hours of talks with the ousted leader.

“He has access to information in terms of TV, newspapers, so we were able to talk about the situation and we were able to talk about the need to move forward.

“We had a friendly, open and very frank discussion,” she added, declining to characterize Mursi’s comments.

Mursi has not been seen in public since his ouster and is being held in custody on allegations related to his escape from prison during Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

Ashton said meeting Mursi was a condition of her trip to Egypt.

“I said that I would not come unless I could see him and that was freely offered to me,” she said.

But she said her talks with him and a string of government officials and opposition representatives were not intended to push the two sides to the table.

“We want to help facilitate the bringing together of ideas,” she said, adding that she was hoping to find “common ground”.

“I don’t come here to say somebody should do this, somebody should do that, this is your country,” she said.

In Brussels, Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann said the EU had a key role “because everybody is willing to talk to us.”

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