World Bulletin/News Desk
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi has denied speculation that EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton had sought to mediate in Egypt's ongoing political crisis, dismissing claims that her meeting with ousted president Mohamed Morsi constituted "interference" in the country's internal affairs.
"Ashton came to assess the situation and present ideas," Fahmi said at a Wednesday press conference.
Ashton concluded her second visit to Egypt in less than two weeks on Tuesday after meeting with senior Egyptian officials and leaders of political parties and groups.
The top European diplomat confirmed that she had met with Morsi, who was ousted by the army on July 3 after mass protests against his regime.
"Ashton asked to meet Morsi in order to listen to his opinion and convey to the EU the view on developments in Egypt and what steps should be taken to calm the situation," Fahmi said.
The minister added that Vice-President for International Relations Mohamed ElBaradei had clearly explained the situation on Tuesday.
"ElBaradei said that Ashton had sought to assess the situation and see what help she could provide, but she did not put forward any mediation initiatives," Fahmi said.
Asked whether Ashton's meeting with Morsi had constituted "interference" in Egypt's internal affairs, Fahmi said: "Such visits should not be taken out of context."
He said that the first visit paid to the ousted president had been by an Egyptian human rights delegation.
Morsi was visited late Tuesday by a high-level delegation led by Alpha Oumar Konaré, a former Malian president and former chairperson of the African Union Commission.
Asked about a dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over a dam being built by Addis Ababa on the Nile, Fahmi said that Egypt had invited Ethiopia and Sudan for a meeting of the three countries' water ministers following next week's Eid al-Fitr holidays.
Ethiopia is currently in the process of building a massive dam on the Blue Nile, one of the river's main tributaries.
Cairo, for its part, has voiced concern that the project could adversely affect Egypt's traditional share of Nile water.
A report by a tripartite committee – including Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese representatives – has called for further studies into the dam's potential impact.
"Although Ethiopia is continuing construction of the dam, there is a commitment from the Ethiopian side to cooperate on the political and technical levels," Fahmi said.
"We intend to raise the issues cited in the report by a tripartite committee in order to preserve Egypt's legal rights and meet the economic and development aspirations of Ethiopia and other Nile Basin countries," he added.
Asked about South Africa's criticism of Morsi's ouster, Fahmi regretted Johannesburg's position.
"However," he said, "we are looking for normal relations with all African countries."
South Africa has described Morsi's ouster as "unconstitutional" and has called for his release.
"South Africa joins the call by the international community for the unconditional release of president Morsi and all other political prisoners held in detention since the unconstitutional change of government on July 3," said Clayson Monyela, South Africa's head of public diplomacy.
"The South African government calls on all relevant parties to engage in an inclusive political process that will lead to constitutional normality," Monyela asserted.Last Mod: 31 Temmuz 2013, 17:46