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4th Mar 2024

Ashton visits Egypt amid rising tensions

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is in Egypt Monday (29 July) amid high tension following the latest violence which has left scores dead.

Ashton, who was also in the country earlier this month, said ahead of her visit that she would urge a "fully inclusive transition process, taking in all political groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood."

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"The EU will continue to stand by the Egyptian people and support their democratic aspirations," she said.

Her visit comes just two days after around 70 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of the deposed Mohamed Morsi, were shot dead by security forces.

And tensions are set to rise further still on Monday.

Reuters reported that Morsi supporters have begun marching towards military headquarters in Cairo, in defiance of a warning by the army to stay away from military facilities.

The international community has been watching the events in Egypt with increasing nervousness since the army removed Morsi, the country's first free elected president, from power on 3 July.

The EU's first reaction to the army's move was muted but it has become increasingly vocal about the need to include the Muslim Brotherhood in negotiations about the future of the country.

But it has been accused of double standards by Turkey for not coming out with a stronger reactions to the shooting of protestors.

"Those who were silent when Egypt's national will was massacred are silent again when people are massacred. What happened to the EU (and) European values, where are those who go around giving lessons in democracy?" Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday.

Erdogan drew comparisons with the EU's strong criticism of Ankara's recent crackdown on anti-government protestors.

Ashton is due to meet the of the Egyptian armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the country's interim president, Adli Mansour, and officials from the Brotherhood's political wing.

The military, for its part, has said it does not want to hold onto power but is planning to oversee a transition to civilian rule with a roadmap to parliamentary elections in about six months time.

However, analysts suggest that the increasingly public role of Sisi - at the weekend he urged supporters to come out onto the streets as a way of legitimising his power - throws these state intentions into doubt.

The West views Egypt as a bridge between the Middle East and Africa. The EU has earmarked some €5 billion in economic aid for the country in the coming years and has given around €1 billion in aid to Egypt from 2007 onwards.

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