Europe’s top diplomat pressed Egypt’s rulers on Monday to step back from a growing confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, two days after 80 of his supporters were gunned down in Cairo.
Raising the prospects of more bloodshed, the Brotherhood said it would march again.
Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, became the first overseas envoy to visit Egypt since Saturdays carnage, the second mass killing of Morsi supporters by security forces since he was overthrown by the army on July 3.
The bloodshed has triggered global anxiety that the army may move to crush the Muslim Brotherhood which emerged from decades in the shadows to win power in the wake of Egypt’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
Ashton, on her second trip to Egypt since Morsi’s fall, met General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the army and the man behind the overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president.
She also held talks with deputy interim president and prominent liberal politician Mohammed ElBaradei and interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy.
There were no immediate details on the talks. Earlier, Ashton said she would press for a “fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
In comments carried by the MENA State News Agency, ElBaradei said he had told Ashton that the country’s new leadership was doing all in its power to “reach a peaceful way out of the current crisis that preserves the blood of all Egyptians.”
Ashton was also expected to meet members of the Freedom and Justice party which is the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing.
Her leverage is limited. The United States is Egypt’s chief Western backer and source of $1.3 billion in military aid though the EU is the biggest civilian aid donor to the country. The EU has attempted to mediate in Egypt’s political crisis over the past six months as Egyptians have grown increasingly suspicious of US involvement.