EU to hold emergency meeting to review Egypt's Dh25bn aid

Amid reports that Europe may suspend financial assistance and arms shipments, Saudi Arabia issues a strongly worded warning against international involvement in the crisis. Omar Karmi reports from London

A picture released by the Egyptian presidency shows Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour (right) meeting with defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi (centre) and Egyptian interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim (left) in Cairo on Monday.  The EU is to meet tomorrow to discuss the future of Egypt’s aid.
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LONDON // The European Union's 28 foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to review the €5 billion (Dh24.6bn) aid package pledged to Egypt last year.

"No options are being ruled out," EU envoy Bernardino Leon said yesterday. "We are discussing responses to the current discussion in a very open-minded way."

Amid reports that Europe might suspend financial assistance and arms shipments, Saudi Arabia issued a strongly worded warning against international involvement in the crisis.

Riyadh would "provide a helping hand" if other countries suspend their assistance to Egypt, said Prince Saud Al Faisal, the foreign minister.

"The leadership, government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have stood and will always stand with Egypt and the Arab states will not accept manipulation of their fates or tampering with their security and stability by the international community," he said.

"Concerning those who announced stopping their assistance to Egypt or threatening to stop them, the Arab and Islamic nation is rich with its people and capabilities and will provide a helping hand to Egypt," Prince Saud said.

Israel is also thought to be urging western capitals to back the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, but it denies reports that Israeli diplomats have been told to convey to European and US leaders that the choice in Egypt was between "army or anarchy".

Israel's primary interest is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed in 1979.

Barack Obama is treading a fine line between condemnation of the crackdown and not putting itself in a corner in relation to the annual aid it provides Egypt and is seen as a main source of leverage with Cairo.

The US president last week cancelled joint military exercises scheduled for September and urged both sides to get back to negotiations.

At the same time, the US administration has been careful not to describe the military removal of Mohammad Morsi, Egypt's elected president and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, as a coup, which would trigger an automatic suspension of US aid - US$1.5bn (Dh5.5bn) a year, $1.3bn of which is in military assistance.

EU member states last year pledged a combined €5bn in loans and aid to Egypt, and European nations are Egypt's biggest trading partner. Trade between the EU and Egypt was worth nearly €24bn in 2011.

Tomorrow's meeting in Brussels is expected to focus on how the EU can use its aid and trade leverage to pressure the military leadership in Cairo to find a peaceful way out of the violent impasse.

Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in clashes between the security forces and supporters of Mr Morsi.

EU officials are alarmed at the scale of violence.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, and Herman van Rompuy, the European Council president, issued a joint statement on Sunday condemning the violence and saying "further escalation must be prevented".

"We underline the particular responsibility of the interim authorities and of the army in bringing clashes to a halt. The violence and the killings of these last days cannot be justified nor condoned. Human rights must be respected and upheld. Political prisoners should be released."

The UK foreign secretary William Hague yesterday suggested, however, that there were no clear options for Europe.

"Our influence may be limited," Mr Hague said, and raised the prospect of "years of turbulence" in Egypt and the region.

"We have to do our best to promote democratic institutions and political dialogue and to keep faith with the majority of Egyptians who just want a peaceful and stable country."

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