BRUSSELS - European Union foreign ministers agreed on Wednesday, August 21, to restrict the sale of security equipment and arms to Egypt, opting to maintain economic assistance.
"We strongly condemn all acts of violence and we do believe the recent actions of the military have been disproportionate," EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a news conference, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
Ashton also said the EU called "on all sides" to halt the violence and urged all sides to come together in an inclusive process to agree a political solution to the country's crisis.
"All member states feel very strongly they want to continue to support the people of Egypt," she added.
Ashton's comments summed up four-hour emergency talks between the European Union foreign ministers called in the middle of Europe's summer break after the deaths of almost 1,000 people in a week of unrelenting violence.
Voicing "great concern" over events unrolling in Europe's backyard in the most populous Arab state, the ministers said in a statement that "the EU condemns in the clearest possible terms all acts of violence".
The statement dubbed recent operations by Egyptian security forces as "disproportionate" while also condemning "acts of terrorism" in the Sinai and attacks on Coptic churches.
At the end of the discussions, member states said they would suspend export licenses to Egypt for all equipment that might be used for internal repression as well as reviewing security assistance.
"It is a very clear and determined signal towards Egypt for an end of the violence and a return to a political process that includes all the different political forces," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have all adopted arms restrictions measures.
"Delivering arms this week, next week, in the short-term, would not be right, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said.
The EU countries opted to maintain economic assistance though it was expected to reduce the huge economic aid packages.
"We must keep faith with the majority of the people of Egypt who want a stable, democratic and prosperous country for themselves and that means we mustn't do anything that hurts them or that cuts off support to them," added British Foreign Secretary William Hague, EU Business reported.
Italy's Emma Bonino agreed, calling the idea to cut aids as "counter-productive".
The EU decision to maintain economic ties with Egypt was seen as a result for
But there was little taste from EU nations for a reduction in the EU's potentially huge economic aid packages or for trade sanctions, with Saudi Arabia urged global powers not to take measures that could "hamper the efforts of Egypt's government to stabilize" the country.
Expressing concern over the economic situation, the ministers said "assistance in the socio-economic sector and to civil society will continue."
But they warned that "the EU will monitor the situation in Egypt closely and readjust its cooperation accordingly."
The EU meeting results were announced as an Egyptian court ordered on Wednesday the release on bail of former President Hosni Mubarak in a corruption case, amid reports he could leave prison on Thursday.
Egypt has been thrown into turmoil after defense minister General Abdel Fattah El Sisi deposed President Mohamed Morsi in July 3 after mass protests.
In a bid to quash protests and sit-ins that ran for more than 45 days in in Rabaa and Nahda squares, the protesters' camps were broken up in a bloody security forces crackdown, leaving at least 638 dead, according to official sources, and triggering international condemnation.
But, Youssef Talaat, a member of the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, a coalition Islamist parties and figures supportive of Morsi, put the toll at 2,600, Anadolu Agency said.
Further clashes during a "day of rage" called by the Brotherhood last Friday left at least another 173 people across the country dead, including 95 in the capital and 25 in Alexandria.
Reports also referred to the death of at least 36 Islamists detained in a prison in the outskirts of Cairo on Sunday evening.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net