EU ministers to meet on response to Egypt coup

EU ministers to meet on response to Egypt coup

EU ministers to meet on response to Egypt coup

Egyptian army soldiers guard an entrance to Tahrir Square. EU ministers will discuss proposals to halt aid programs and suspend arms shipments to Egypt. AP photo

European Union foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting this week to forge a joint response to the recent violence in Egypt that has left nearly 1,000 people dead, with discussions expected on proposals to halt aid programs and suspend arms shipments.

The European Commission said yesterday that diplomats from the bloc’s 28 member nations agreed the meeting would be held tomorrow in Brussels. The meeting of ambassadors came a day after top EU officials said the bloc would “urgently review” its relations with Egypt.

The EU and its member states last year pledged a combined 5 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in loans and aid for Egypt. European nations are also the country’s biggest trading partner, according to the Egyptian statistics office. The trade volume between Egypt and the EU reached almost 24 billion euros in 2011 (then $34.5 billion), compared with $8.2 billion with the United States.

Germany’s development minister, Dirk Niebel, told yesterday RBB Inforadio that Egypt would get “no further pledges this year” of aid from Berlin and added that he had decided “that we won’t negotiate this year” on any debt relief for the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also floated the idea to halt previously approved arms shipments to Egypt as part of a coordinated EU response.

Countering the EU, Saudi Arabia said yesterday that Arab and Islamic countries would step in to help Egypt if Western nations cut aid packages to Cairo over a crackdown on Islamist protesters.

“To those who have announced they are cutting their aid to Egypt, or threatening to do that, [we say that] Arab and Muslim nations are rich... and will not hesitate to help Egypt,” Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

Prince Saud was speaking upon his return from France, where he held talks with President François Hollande, who strongly condemned the violence in Egypt.