CAIRO, (Reuters) – Egypt allowed Europe’s top diplomat to meet deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi yesterday, flying her after dark to Mursi’s secret detention facility but ruling out any role for him in ending the turmoil convulsing the country.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, became the first outsider to see Mursi since he was deposed by the army on July 3, taken into detention and placed under investigation on charges including murder.
His fate – and a deadly crackdown by security forces on his supporters – has raised global anxiety about a possible bid to crush Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in elections after the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
The state’s MENA news agency reported early on Wednesday that an African delegation headed by former Malian President Alfa Omar Konari held a one-hour meeting with Mursi.
The agency gave no details on the visit nor when it took place but said some of the delegation’s members will host a news conference later on Wednesday after meeting with Arab League officials to discuss the latest developments in Egypt.
Ashton had revealed little about what she called a “friendly, open and very frank” two-hour conversation with the deposed president. An aide said they had “in-depth” talks.
“I’ve tried to make sure that his family knows he is well,” said Ashton, who has emerged as one of the only figures accepted by both sides as mediator in a conflict that has found the United States cast as a meddling hand.
Flown to the meeting by military helicopter, Ashton said Mursi had access to television and newspapers and was informed about the situation in the country. “I saw where he was,” she said. “I don’t know where he is, but I saw the facilities he has.”
Ashton spent Monday shuttling between Egypt’s rulers and the Brotherhood to try to pull the country back from more bloodshed.