BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union said Sunday it will “urgently review” its relations with Egypt, warning the authorities there that the people’s calls for democracy and fundamental rights “cannot be disregarded, much less be washed away in blood.”
In a rare joint foreign policy statement, the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council said it’s the responsibility of the Egyptian army and the interim government to end the violence and to embark on a political dialogue to swiftly restore democracy.
Nearly 900 people have died there over the week in clashes between security forces and supporters of the deposed President Mohammed Morsi, officials said.
“The violence and the killings of these last days cannot be justified nor condoned,” said the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Council chief Herman Van Rompuy. “The calls for democracy and fundamental freedoms from the Egyptian population cannot be disregarded, much less washed away in blood,” they added.
Top EU diplomats are gathering Monday morning in Brussels to discuss possible EU actions in response to the crisis in Egypt. The diplomats will lay the groundwork for an expected emergency meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Egypt later this week.
The 28-nation bloc is a major source of aid, loans, business and tourists for Egypt. The EU and its member states last year pledged a combined 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in loans and aid for Egypt, contingent on the progress toward democracy.
Besides the economic leverage, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday floated the idea to halt previously approved arms shipments to Egypt as part of a coordinated EU response.
“In any case, arms exports can absolutely be subject to measures by which one makes it clear: We are very skeptical regarding what is happening in Egypt at the moment,” she told public broadcaster ZDF. “We will do everything to stop the violence.”
Sun-seeking tourists from Germany and other EU countries flocking to resorts on the Red Sea have kept Egypt’s ailing economy from suffocating since the 2011 Arab Spring protests that led to the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Berlin, however, on Friday issued a stern travel warning following this week’s violence. Germany stopped short of seeking to evacuate its currently estimated 40,000 citizens there, but firmly advised against traveling to Egypt. If travel warnings from many EU countries were issued or kept in place, Egypt’s already fragile economy would face further mayhem.
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande said European and Arab nations have a “common responsibility” to do what they can so the violence in Egypt ends and a political life can be restarted.
Hollande spoke after meeting with the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, saying he doesn’t want to interfere in Egyptian affairs, but “violence at this level is not acceptable in a great nation like Egypt.”
Hollande called on Egyptian political authorities to quickly organize elections “so that people can express themselves.” He said other nations must “do all so that violence ceases.” The French president didn’t say what nations should do to help end the crisis in Egypt.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius held a separate meeting with his Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, as French authorities reached across the divide that has cut Egypt into two camps.
Qatar is known as a leading ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement of Morsi, while Saudi Arabia King Abdullah has said the kingdom stood by Egypt in its fight against “terrorism and strife” — a thinly veiled reference to the Brotherhood.
“We must quickly end this bloodbath and reach an inter-Egyptian dialogue,” Fabius said after meeting the Qatari envoy.
Meanwhile, several hundred pro-Morsi backers held a demonstration in Paris while a pro-army group protested on the other side of town.
Associated Press writer Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.
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