Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

EU diplomat: Both sides guilty in Egypt

  • Leon in Brussels on Monday: 'There is violence coming from all sides' (Photo: EEAS)

The EU's envoy to north Africa, Bernardino Leon, has said events in Egypt are "more complex" than a simple story of the army killing Muslim protesters.

He told press in Brussels on Monday (19 August) the military has a "special responsibility."

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He also said media reports it has done the vast bulk of the killing - at least 800 people in the past few days, including some burned alive in tents or shot by snipers - are fair.

But he added: "There are two sides. There is violence coming from all sides … We have seen attacks on Coptic churches and on public buildings. We've been saying very clearly that violence from both sides, from all sides, has to stop."

He noted that EU ambassadors on Monday decided to call a snap meeting of foreign ministers on Wednesday.

He said nobody has spoken of EU "sanctions" against the military regime so far.

But he indicated that an options paper to be drafted by the EU's foreign service is likely to contain a potential arms embargo and a block on EU pro-democracy funds.

Leon underlined the importance of Egypt in terms of regional stability.

"Egypt is a key partner [for the EU], probably the most important partner in the Mediterranean," he said.

"We are convinced that a political solution is possible … We still think there are democratic forces and we will try to address them and keep working with them constructively," he added.

His words echoed British foreign minister William Hague on BBC radio earlier in the day.

Hague said the UK will suspend some security projects with the Egyptian military and stop some arms exports.

He noted: "What is happening now in the Middle East is the most important event so far of the 21st century … I think it will take years, maybe decades, to play out, and through that we have to keep our nerve in clearly supporting democracy."

He added "our influence may be limited," however.

For its part, Saudi Arabia, which, like the Egyptian armed forces, considers the Muslim Brotherhood movement as a threat, said also on Monday it is ready to compensate Egypt for lost EU aid.

"To those who have announced they are cutting their aid to Egypt, or threatening to do that, [we say] Arab and Muslim nations are rich ... and will not hesitate to help Egypt," its foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, said in a statement.

Egypt's ambassador to the UK, Ashraf ElKholy, told The Telegraph newspaper that: "Europe is the conscience of the world."

He added: "I think we are beginning to see recognition that the Muslim Brotherhood is involved in the violence from Europe's governments."

Meanwhile, in another new twist, an Egyptian court on Wednesday acquitted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak on a charge of corruption.

The decision means he could be freed from prison this week, aggravating tension.

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