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Egypt unrest 'shocks' EU

August 16, 2013

EU leaders have condemned the violent response to protests in several Egyptian cities, which have led to loss of life. Germany has joined the outcry, freezing its aid to Egypt as events unfold.

Protesters who support ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi clash with opponents outside Azbkya police station near Ramses Square in Cairo, August 16, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
Image: Reuters

Reports of fatal altercations between security forces and protesters in Egypt on Friday prompted an immediate pledge from leaders across the European Union to deliberate over how to respond to the crisis in coming days.

As news emerged of relentless violence on the streets of Cairo and several other cities, EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton released a statement, calling on EU member states to "coordinate appropriate measures" to take in response to the crisis in Egypt, calling the death toll figures known at that point "shocking."

The responsibility for the tragedy "weighs heavily on the interim government, as well as on the wider political leadership in the country," Ashton said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande also proposed a meeting of EU foreign ministers for early next week.

Other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway and Spain joined in the condemnation of the violent crackdown on critics of the interim government in separate statements released Friday.

International criticism and concern over the situation in Egypt grew on Wednesday after security forces forcibly cleared supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi from two sit-ins in Cairo. Over 600 people died in the subsequent violence.

Germany, France and the United Kingdom voiced their concern the following day by summoning the respective Egyptian ambassadors to their capital cities.

Berlin freezes aid

Meanwhile on Friday, Berlin suspended $25 million euros ($33.4 million) in aid to Cairo and said it was reevaluating its relationship to the interim government, "in view of the latest developments," a statement released by Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said.

The Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development also announced it would suspend funding for new development projects. However, the German Development Minister Dirk Niebel told DW on Friday that current projects would continue to receive federal support, as they benefited the people and not the government.

Saudi Arabia responds to crisis

The crisis in Egypt has drawn both criticism and sympathy from neighboring leaders. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan called the crackdown earlier this week a "massacre" and urged the UN Security Council to take action. However, Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia in particular, have supported the transitional government.

The UN said its Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman would include Egypt on his trip to the Middle East next week, which had been planned as a follow up to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's recent visit to the region.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia – who supported the coup that removed Morsi from office - defended the interim government's right to enforce the law and keep order on the streets.

"[Saudi Arabia] has stood and stands with its Egyptian brothers against terrorism, deviance and sedition," King Abdullah said in a speech televised on Saudi television.

He urged Egyptians to hinder "attempts to destabilize a country that is at the forefront of Arab and Muslim history."

Saudi Arabia was a close ally of ex-President Hosni Mubarak, whom Egyptians ousted in early 2011, and welcomed Morsi's removal from power this summer by pledging several million dollars in aid to Egypt.

kms/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)