Germany vows to review Egypt ties, urges EU meeting

BERLIN, Germany, Aug 16, 2013 (AFP)

Germany vowed Friday to review ties with violence-torn Egypt and, along with France, urged European talks over the bloody crackdown on supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton also called for the 28-nation bloc to agree “appropriate measures” in response to the violence.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande had raised the spectre of the European Union rethinking its cooperation with Egyptian authorities, as at least 12 people were killed in fresh violence on Friday.

The two leaders after a phone talk called for an EU foreign ministers meeting next week “in order to take stock of cooperation between the European Union and Egypt, and to develop common responses”.

Hollande also discussed Egypt by phone with Italiqn Prime Minister Enrico Lettta, and was due to speak later Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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

Merkel’s office said that in her talks with Hollande “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.”

Both leaders shared “deep concern and dismay about the high number of fatalities and injuries” and would continue to closely coordinate their response to the turmoil in the north African country.

“They agree that any further bloodshed must be avoided and urge all sides to refrain from any further violence,” said the statement.

Hollande and Merkel also said in a statement after the telephone talk that “Egypt must return as quickly as possible to the path of its democratic life”.

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 toll of death and injury is shocking,” Ashton said in a statement. “I have asked member state representatives to debate and coordinate appropriate measures to be taken by the European Union in response to the situation in Egypt.”

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 Friday 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.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert earlier warned that “the political and military leadership of Egypt along with the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood now carry great responsibility” as further escalations “could plunge Egypt into a chaos of violence and counter-violence”.

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 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.

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.

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