Egypt asks Ashton to cancel her trip
10.02.11 @ 09:29
BRUSSELS - The Egyptian foreign ministry has told Catherine Ashton they do not want her to visit the country in the coming weeks as she had planned.
According to a senior EU official speaking to press in Brussels on Wednesday evening, Egyptian authorities made it known that now is not the best time: "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."
The high representative still intends to go, however.
"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 Ms 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 organisation.
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.