Saturday

7th Dec 2019

EU stops some arms sales to Egypt

EU countries have punished the Egyptian army for massacring Muslim Brotherhood protesters by stopping sales of items "which might be used for internal repression."

They said other arms exports, and joint security projects, can go ahead, with each member state free to "review" and "reassess" which ones it wants to pursue.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

EU countries also plan to "review" financial aid to Egypt.

They noted that payments for schemes designed to help NGOs and "vulnerable groups," such as women in rural areas, will go ahead, however.

The decisions came at an emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels on Wednesday (21 August) in reaction to the Egyptian military's crackdown last week.

The violence saw soldiers kill at least 800 protesters, some of whom were burned alive in tents or shot by snipers. On the other side, Muslim brothers killed some 40 members of the security forces and destroyed Coptic churches and public buildings.

Wednesday's EU statement called for a "democratic" and "inclusive" solution to the crisis.

For her part, EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said twice she is personally willing to go to Cairo if it would help.

"We want to continue to be able to have a strong relationship with Egypt … and if we could be of any assistance, we would do so, I would do so," she said.

With anti-Muslim-Brotherhood groups in Egypt increasingly hostile to the EU due to its criticism of the army, Wednesday's statement made a number of pro-military concessions.

Bloomberg reports that one draft version referred to the "alarming number of people killed" and called on soldiers to "desist from the use of lethal force." But both phrases were cut.

The final version also referred to "acts of terrorism such as the murder of policemen in the Sinai, destruction of many churches and the targeting of the Coptic community" - lumping together the murder of Egyptian police by unknown militants in the Sinai peninsula with violence by urban pro-brotherhood supporters.

British foreign minister William Hague voiced the EU's dilemma, saying it had to show the army there are "consequences" for its actions, but "not to take sides," if it is to have a peace building role.

Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans noted "it would not be wise" to deliver arms to Egypt while the crisis unfolds.

But he predicted security co-operation will resume "in the long run" because Egypt is too important to Europe to let it slide into instability.

He said another negative scenario would be a return to the 1990s, in which the Muslin Brotherhood felt "very comfortable" as an underground opposition force and the security establishment felt equally comfortable keeping down dissent.

"All those young Egyptian people with aspirations, who just want to prosper and to be free, all their aspirations would be lost," he said.

The UK's Hague and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday also urged Syria to give access to UN weapons inspectors to verify reports it killed over 1,300 civilians using chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus.

Hague said: "There is no excuse for Syria to refuse access to the UN team."

Fabius gave credibility to the Syrian opposition account of the attack, saying: "We cannot accept a massacre using these kinds of weapons … The last time gas of this type was used was in the Iraq conflict by [late Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein."

For its part, Russia took Syria's side in rejecting the rebels' claims.

"We are faced with a new provocation, which was planned well in advance," its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, told press.

EU diplomat: Both sides guilty in Egypt

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

Feature

Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion

The Arctic future conference kicked off with optimistic presentations by ministers and officials of the Russian government — but also a burst of scepticism from representatives of those actually living in Russia's Arctic and Far East regions.

Macron spars with US and Turkey over Nato

French president Emmanuel Macron clashed with US president Donald Trump and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Nato, as the future of the alliance begins to fray following Ankara's invasion into north-east Syria in October.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us