The EU has restricted military aid to Egypt and condemned the violence in the county but has left other aid untouched. The US has yet to make a decision on the aid issue. Egypt has said the EU’s decision will only play into the hands of extremists.
Catherine Ashton the EU‘s foreign policy chief said on Wednesday that the EU is calling on all sides in Egypt to go back to the negotiating table.
"We strongly condemn all acts of violence and we do believe the recent actions of the military have been disproportionate," Ashton told a news conference at the close of a four-hour meeting between the ministers.
"We will review assistance to Egypt but assistance to the most needy will remain, all member states feel very strongly they want to continue to support the people of Egypt," she added.
She said all 28 EU member states agreed to suspend export licenses for weapons or any goods that could be used for internal repression. She also said the EU would review their aid programs to the Arab nation.
All EU ministers “strongly condemned” the disproportionate use of force in Egypt by the security forces but also the violence perpetrated by those in opposition to the authorities.
Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, told the German broadcaster ZDF that their aim was to send a strong message to Egypt but also called for expectation to be realistic.
“Our appeal is – with maximum pressure – to contribute to their returning to the negotiating table,” he said.
Linas Linkevicius, the Lithuanian foreign minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said that all political and economic ties “should be revisited”.
Egypt’s ambassador to France said that any sanctions imposed by the European Union would just play into the hands of extremists.
“We cannot accept that pressure be put on the Egyptian people. What’s more, sometimes these sorts of messages can give a false impression to parties who practice violence because they can believe that the international community supports them,” said Mahamed Moustafa Kamal, speaking at the Egyptian embassy in Paris.
President Obama interrupted his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard to announce that the US government was suspending joint military exercises with Egypt next month, but so far has remained silent on whether billions of dollars of aid sent to Egypt from the US will continue.
While $5 billion of that aid has already arrived, Reuters report, word came this week that the administration had nonetheless quietly put a halt to delivery of certain military hardware to the country.
Egypt meanwhile has said that it can do without US military support and that Cairo would “live with the circumstances” if Washington stopped the support.
“Let’s not forget that Egypt went with the Russian military for support and we survived. So, there is not end to life,” said Hazem el-Beblawi, Egypt’s Prime Minister.
Direct budget assistance from the EU was stopped last year and a package of grants and loans amounting to 5 billion euros ($7 billion) was put in its place. This is dependent on democratic and economic reforms, which have been lacking.
The United States provides Egypt with the bulk of its military assistance, which amounts to $1.3 billion, most of which goes on the acquisition and maintenance of US-made weapons.
More than 850 people - including 70 policemen and soldiers - have been killed in Egypt since the military government used force to disperse pro-Morsi sit-ins in support of the Muslim Brotherhood a week ago.
The increasing bloodshed has seen western leaders come under increasing pressure to deliver a strong response. However, Saudi Arabia - a longtime critic of the Muslim Brotherhood - has said it will plug any shortfall in aid left by the West. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have so far promised $12 billion in new aid to Egypt.
The Brotherhood is struggling to keep up the momentum in its protest movement as a series of blows inflicted on it by the military government take their toll.
On Tuesday the authorities arrested Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s supreme leader and spiritual guide.