CAIRO, (Xinhua): The European Union(EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Cairo on Sunday evening for a two-day visit to the Arab world’s most populous country amid a deepening political crisis.
Ashton is scheduled to hold talks with top Egyptian officials, including interim President Adly Mansur and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, according to Egypt’s state-run news agency MENA.
Egypt has been deeply mired in a political crisis after the military, led by al-Sisi, overthrew the democratically-elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.
Deadly violence erupts almost daily as supporters and opponents of the deposed leader clashed in Cairo and other major cities.
It is Ashton’s second visit to Egypt in less than two weeks. During the last visit, she met with the country’s senior officials on July 17 and urged the release of Morsi and other arrested Muslim Brotherhood leaders if there are no charges against them.
MENA reported Ashton, this time, would meet with the representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, the political group behind Morsi, and one of its rival groups.
The EU diplomat’s visit came one day after a new round of bloody confrontations over the past two days left at least 80 people killed and about 800 others injured in rival rallies, mostly in Cairo and the northern Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
However, the Muslim Brotherhood and the field hospital at Rabia al-Adawiya Square in Cairo, where Morsi’s supporters have staged a massive open-ended sit-in since June 28, said at least 200 pro-Morsi protesters were killed and over 4,500 injured in Saturday’s clashes with security forces.
Egyptian presidential political adviser Mostafa Hegazi said earlier on Sunday that Ashton’s second visit was not meant to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs and the Egyptian government appreciated the EU’s efforts to ease the escalating tension in Egypt.
Morsi and several Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been detained since the military drove him from power nearly four weeks ago after his opponents held massive protests to demand his ouster.
UN Secretary-Genernal Ban Ki-moon, in phone talks with Egyptian Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradeis on Sunday, called for the military to release Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders or make a transparent investigation over their cases.