EU foreign policy chief condemns fresh violence in Egypt

November 21st, 2011 - 4:53 pm ICT by BNO News  

BRUSSELS (BNO NEWS) — The European Union on Monday condemned the fresh outbreak of violence in Egypt this weekend which has left at least 22 people killed and more than 1,700 others injured. Britain has also condemned the clashes.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she is ‘extremely concerned’ about the riots and violent clashes in Egypt, notably in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. “I deplore the loss of life and the many injuries and express my solidarity with the families of the victims,” she said.

The latest violence in Egypt began on Friday when hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered at Tahrir Square to demand a swift transfer of power to an elected government by April 2012. They also repudiated proposed constitutional reforms that they say will grant the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) unfettered powers.

Security forces responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and shotguns on Saturday and Sunday to disperse the thousands of protesters at several locations in the Egyptian capital, leaving at least 20 people killed and more than 1,700 others injured. In the northern city of Alexandria, where thousands also gathered, two people were killed when snipers fired live ammunition.

“I urge calm and restraint and condemn the use of violence in the strongest terms,” Ashton said. “There is no doubt that the transitional process is a difficult and challenging one. I have expressed my concern in the past about the emergency law and the ongoing military trials. I reiterate that the interim authorities and all parties concerned have the crucial task of listening to the people and protecting their democratic aspirations.”

Ashton said law and order must be ensured in a manner which is respectful of human rights. “Citizens and political parties’ demands that the transition moves forward and safeguards the principles of democracy must be listened to,” she said. “As Egypt prepares to go to the polls, in its first democratic and transparent elections, I remain confident that the Egyptian people and the authorities will find the way to move peacefully forward and succeed in overcoming the challenges.”

British Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, also condemned the fresh violence in Egypt. “It is important Egypt enters the coming elections in an atmosphere of calm and mutual respect,” he said. “The clashes occurring between police and protesters in Tahrir Square and across Egypt are deeply concerning and the loss of life and injuries deeply regrettable.”

Burt called on all sides to find a peaceful way forward and to commit themselves to dialogue and the completion of a transfer to democratic civilian rule on the basis of a credible timetable. “We are following events closely and our Embassy is in contact with the Egyptian authorities in Cairo,” he added.

For months, the ruling SCAF has been criticized for various reasons, including the continuing military trials of civilians, a deteriorating national economy and for allegedly ‘ignoring’ the demands of the January 25 Revolution. Activists and human rights organizations have criticized the ruling military council for its use of military tribunals to prosecute thousands of individuals it accuses of breaking public order.

The military council has been in control of Egypt since the regime of President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February during an uprising which left at least 840 people killed and more than 6,000 others injured. Upon assuming power, the SCAF vowed to end its interim rule after a six-month transitional period.

This has not been the case, as the ruling military council has maintained its hold on power for over 10 months now. Egyptians from across the political and ideological spectrum have been taking to the streets to call for a fixed timeline bookended by the speedy departure of the military rulers.

The latest protests come just days before Egyptians are scheduled to take part in the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of Mubarak. The elections are due to take place in three stages, with the first to be held on November 28.

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