Egypt Says Catherine Ashton Not Welcome

World | February 10, 2011, Thursday // 16:19|  views

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton. Photo by EPA/BGNES

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton has seen her hopes to visit Egypt, which has been ripped by violence and protests over the past weeks, dampened, following an unwelcoming message from the country's foreign ministry.

"The foreign minister has said he doesn't want visitors in Cairo in February because their calendar is too heavily loaded ... very busy domestic agenda," a senior EU official said speaking to press in Brussels on Wednesday evening, as cited by EUObserver.

Ashton however is still keen to go to Egypt.

"If she can go there, she will," the contact said. "Frankly, I can hardly believe they won't receive her by the end of the month ... It would be a refusal to the EU as such because she has a mandate from the European Council.

"If for any reason they say it is not possible, they are saying this to the EU as a whole and the EU is one of their major partners. How can you tell a major partner you have to wait a month to see you?"

The official repeated that it is Ashton's intention to meet with as many opposition forces as she can, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

"I would recommend her to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood because vice-president [Omar] Suleiman has met with them and you cannot ask the Egyptian government to be broad-based and then yourself say that you cannot meet this group," he noted, adding that at the same time, Ms Ashton will "take the view of other capitals" and an "exchange with [Hilary] Clinton" before making a final decision on meeting with the organization.

She will also likely meet with the vice-president, although the official hinted that she does not hope to have an audience with President Hosni Mubarak himself.

"I never said she will meet with Mubarak," the official added.

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Tags: Catherine, Ashton, Egypt, Cairo


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