Brussels: The European Union held a first round of emergency talks on Monday on the spiralling bloodshed in Egypt amid warnings the bloc was ready to "urgently review" ties with the country.
Ambassadors on the bloc`s Political and Security Committee were called away from their summer break for talks in Brussels that kicked off Monday morning after the death toll from five days of violence in Egypt climbed to almost 800.
Warning that further escalation could have "unpredictable consequences" for Egypt and its neighbours, the presidents of the European Council and European Commission said in a rare joint foreign affairs statement issued on the eve of the talks that the 28-nation bloc will review its relations with Cairo.
"Recent developments in Egypt, and more particularly the violence of the last days, are extremely worrying," Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement.
"It is crucial that violence ends immediately," they added.
"The EU will urgently review in the coming days its relations with Egypt."
At stake is nearly five billion euros (USD 6.7 billion) in loans and grants promised by the world`s top aid donor to Egypt for 2012-2013. It includes one billion euros from the EU with the rest from European banks the EIB and EBRD.
EU aid however has been made contingent on political and judicial progress so no new direct budget support has been approved for the Egyptian government since 2012 due to a lack of reform.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday suggested a freeze on arms supplies.
Despite talk in some European capitals of suspending aid or slapping sanctions on those responsible for the bloodshed, an EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said Monday`s talks would be "less of a decision-making meeting, more a question of looking at the next steps."
One concrete outcome is expected to be a snap meeting within days of the EU`s foreign ministers, who were not scheduled to meet until early September and have not met since July 22, when they urged Egypt`s army to stand aside and allow a peaceful transition to civilian rule.
In their statement, Van Rompuy and Barroso urged an end to the violence, a resumption of political dialogue, and a return to democracy.