22nd Oct 2016

EU convenes emergency meeting on Egypt

  • More clashes are feared after Friday prayers end (Photo: Globovision)

EU foreign ministers may be called to Brussels for snap talks on Egypt in the coming days.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) said on Thursday (15 August) that ambassadors on the bloc's Political and Security Committee (PSC) will hold a first round of emergency talks on Monday morning.

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It noted they will "assess the situation unfolding in Egypt and co-ordinate the member states' and EU position and possible actions."

He added they will "prepare a possible meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, whose date will be announced in due course."

Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino told press the ministers might meet as early as Tuesday.

Denmark has set the tone by suspending two bilateral aid projects in reaction to events on Wednesday, when the Egyptian military killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Cairo.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Reuters that EU-level and International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid might also stop.

"We will have to look at the different EU programmes to see which ones are appropriate and which ones are not," he said.

"It will be tricky for the IMF as well to go forward in this situation … The IMF board will have to assess if there is a government that can be seen as credible in terms of economic policy, which doesn't seem to be the case," he added.

He noted there are limits to EU influence, despite its close contacts with the Egyptian military and the Union's financial incentives.

Referring to last minute pleas by EU Middle East envoy Bernardino Leon to army chiefs before the killing began, he said: "We went flat out … I think we did everything we could have done."

For its part, the US on Thursday cancelled a joint military exercise with Egyptian forces due to have taken place next month.

But US President Barack Obama echoed Bildt's comment that foreign intervention is problematic.

"Our traditional co-operation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets," he said.

"I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong. We've been blamed by supporters of [ousted Muslim Brotherhood President] Morsi. We've been blamed by the other side as if we are supporters of Morsi," he noted.

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also asked the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session.

But inside Egypt, the scene is set for further confrontation at the weekend.

The Muslim Brotherhood plans to hold nationwide rallies after mosques end Friday prayer services, while anti-Morsi protesters plan to hold counter-marches.

Meanwhile, if the EU suspends aid, it could make matters worse.

The Egyptian economy was already suffering from a massive slump in tourism after its 2011 revolution.

Most EU countries are still telling people they can travel to resorts on the Red Sea coast, which is insulated from the unrest by the Sinai desert.

But Russia and the US on Thursday advised nationals against going to any part of the country.

Several Western companies, including Electrolux, General Motors and Shell, also suspended Egyptian operations for the sake of workers' safety.

Echoing earlier predictions by Iran, French President Francois Hollande also on Thursday underlined the EU's fear of a Syria-type conflict unfolding in the Middle East's most populous country.

"[He] urged that everything has to be done to avoid civil war," the Elysee palace said, after the President spoke with Egypt's ambassador to France.

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