CAIRO – Egypt’s military gave the ousted president his first contact with the outside world since removing him from office, allowing Europe’s top diplomat Tuesday to meet with Mohammed Morsi in his secret detention. She emerged from her two-hour talks with him urging all sides to move on toward a peaceful transition.
Despite the military’s gesture, two days of efforts by the EU’s Catherine Ashton to find a solution to Egypt’s crisis hit a brick wall. Some voices in the military-backed government, including Vice President Mohammed ElBaradei, have arisen hoping to avert a security crackdown on Morsi’s supporters, but neither side has budged in their positions.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and his Islamist allies say the only solution is for Egypt’s first freely elected president to be restored to office, and they have vowed to continue their street rallies until that happens. Tuesday evening, they held new marches in Cairo outside the military intelligence offices, and in other cities around the country.
The military and interim government, in turn, have rejected releasing Morsi or other detained Brotherhood leaders. Instead, they appear determined to prosecute detained Brotherhood members for crimes purportedly committed during Morsi’s presidency and for violence after his fall.
Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, was invited by several parties in the standoff, including ElBaradei, in what appeared to be a last ditch attempt to use her good offices with the Brotherhood to find a way to avert a showdown. The invite came after at least 80 protesters, mostly Morsi supporters, were killed Saturday in clashes with security forces in one of the worst single crackdowns on a protest in Egypt’s nearly three years of turbulence.
Ashton gave the first outsider’s look on the situation of Morsi, who remains at the center of the standoff. Morsi has been held incommunicado in unknown locations by the military since he was ousted on July 3. Ashton said she was able to see the facilities where Morsi is being held, but she does not know his location. Local media said she flew to see him in a military helicopter.
Ashton said Morsi was well and was keeping up with the latest developments in the country through television and newspapers. “So we were able to talk about the situation, and we were able to talk about the need to move forward.”