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European leaders vow strong response to Egypt crisis

17 august 2013, 18:31
0
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. ©REUTERS/Andrew Winning
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. ©REUTERS/Andrew Winning
European leaders vowed Friday to send a strong message on Egypt's bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, with Germany pledging to review ties with the country, AFP reports.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, who held telephone talks on the escalating crisis, called for a "strong European message" and said EU foreign ministers should meet quickly to review relations with Egypt, Hollande's office said.

"The end of violence and repression, respect for the human rights of all and the resumption of inter-Egyptian dialogue must be the immediate priority," the French presidency said in a statement after their talks.

"The European Union must carry forward these requirements and review its relations with Egypt."

A spokesman for Cameron confirmed the two had discussed "the appalling events in Egypt and tragic loss of life."

"They agreed that the EU should be clear and united in its message: the violence must end immediately and there needs to be a political dialogue, involving all sides, that leads to genuine democracy," the spokesman said.

He said EU foreign ministers should meet next week to "consider what measures the EU can take to make clear that the violence and repression is unacceptable."

Hollande also held phone talks on the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Merkel's office said that in her talks with the French leader, "the chancellor explained that the government, in view of the latest developments, would review its relations with Egypt."

"She and the president broadly agreed that the EU should also thoroughly review its relations with Egypt," it added.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert warned that further escalations in the unrest "could plunge Egypt into a chaos of violence and counter-violence".

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton called for the 28-nation bloc to agree "appropriate measures" in response to the crisis, as at least 75 people were killed in fresh bloodshed on Friday.

The EU has pledged nearly five billion euros in loans and grants for Egypt for 2012-2013 and said shortly after Morsi's ouster that aid provisions would be "under constant review" as the situation evolved.

Egypt has faced international condemnation since around 600 people were killed in clashes on Wednesday when police broke up protest camps of Morsi supporters, Egypt's bloodiest day in decades.

The army-installed government that took over following Morsi's ouster on July 3 has imposed a state of emergency and night-time curfews.

The EU has already said that senior officials from its member states will meet Monday to review the crisis in Egypt.

The meeting will look at the situation in Egypt ahead of a possible meeting of EU foreign ministers, Ashton's office said on Twitter.

The next scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers is in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on September 6 and 7.

But momentum seemed to be building for top-level talks sooner, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warning of "a very, very worrying situation" for the entire region.

"Egypt is an absolutely critical country in the Arab world," he said on RTL radio.

Asked by BFMTV whether Egypt was on the verge of civil war, Fabius said: "We're not far. We are certainly facing a chaotic situation. Every risk is possible."

Spain's foreign ministry also summoned a senior diplomat of the Egyptian embassy in Madrid on Friday, saying in a statement: "Avoiding more bloodshed and respecting the human rights of all citizens should be the priority of the transition government."

The UN Security Council on Thursday urged all parties in the crisis to exercise "maximum restraint" after an emergency meeting in New York.

US President Barack Obama announced Washington was cancelling exercises with Egypt's military to protest the killings, but stopped short of suspending $1.3 billion (one billion euros) in annual aid.

The United States has carefully avoided calling Morsi's ouster a coup, a designation that would require Washington to cut assistance. Egypt has been one of the biggest recipients of US aid since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

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