Egypt's Mohammed Morsi meets with top EU diplomat
Muslim Brotherhood calls for fresh round of protests today
The European Union's top diplomat said Tuesday that deposed Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi is "well" and that the two had an "open and very frank" discussion about the country's political crisis and the need to move forward.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's two-hour meeting with Morsi late Monday is the first contact the ousted Islamist leader has had with the outside world since the military coup that overthrew him on July 3. He has been held incommunicado at an undisclosed location since his removal.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Ashton said Morsi "has access to information, in terms of TV and newspapers, so we were able to talk about the situation, and we were able to talk about the need to move forward." She declined to reveal anything further about their conversation.
- Egypt on edge: key players, flashpoints, developments
- See photos of Egypt’s opposing factions as they take to streets
Ashton said she was able to see the facilities where he is being held, but that she does not know where it is.
"I sent him good wishes from people here, and he asked me to pass on wishes back, and of course I've tried to make sure that his family knows that he is well," she said.
The EU foreign policy chief is in Egypt on her second visit this month to search for a way out of Egypt's increasingly bloody and complex crisis, looking for compromises in talks with the military-backed government and allies of the ousted president.
She has held meetings with Egypt's interim leadership, including army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as well as representatives of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
She said that during her talks with all sides in Egypt, she made clear that "there is no place for violence in this and that peaceful demonstration is important."
"I am not here to ask people to do things," she added. "I am here to find out where the common ground might be, the confidence-building measures could be, that can help everybody move forward."
Morsi accused of conspiring with Hamas
There were no immediate signs that either side of the conflict was willing to heed her appeals. The Brotherhood has rejected calls to work with the new leaders and called for new demonstrations on Tuesday. The government also has made no conciliatory gestures.
Since the July 3 coup, which followed days of mass protests by millions of Egyptians calling for Morsi's ouster, the former president had been held incommunicado by the military in an undisclosed location. A group of Egyptian rights activists were taken by the military to Morsi's place of detention this week but he refused to see them.
Prosecutors on Friday said Morsi was facing accusations of conspiring with the militant Palestinian Hamas group to escape from prison during the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Ahead of her visit, Ashton deplored the violence over the weekend that killed 83 protesters and appealed for a political process that includes all groups, including Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
Ashton's visit and telephone calls by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to her and to Egyptian leaders underscored the sense of urgency in the international community, whose leaders are pushing for an inclusive political process that puts an end to violence.
"I think we've been very clear that we believe an inclusive process means the participation of all parties. And certainly the detainment of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mr. Morsi, makes it difficult to move forward with that," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington on Monday.
Elections set for next year
The Brotherhood and its allies insist that Morsi must be reinstated, but the military-backed government is pushing ahead with a transition plan that provides for parliamentary and presidential elections early next year.
After their talks with Ashton, a delegation of Islamist politicians representing the pro-Morsi camp said the military-backed government must take the first step toward any reconciliation by releasing jailed Brotherhood leaders, ending the crackdown on their protests and stopping media campaigns against Islamists.
"Creating the atmosphere requires those in authority now to send messages of reassurance," Mohammed Mahsoub, of the Islamist Wasat Party, told reporters.
Speaking alongside a Brotherhood official and another Islamist politician, Mahsoub appeared to be sticking by the demand to reinstate Morsi by saying any solution must be on a "constitutional basis."
But a spokesman for military-backed interim President Adly Mansour suggested Monday that there would be no deviation from the transition plan. When asked about reconciliation initiatives on the table, Ahmed el-Musalamani said: "The ship has sailed and we have no way but to go forward."