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EU Foreign Ministers Urge Egypt to Find Peaceful Outcome

  • Lisa Bryant

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton arrives for an EU Foreign Ministers meeting at the EU Council in Brussels, January 31, 2011

European Union foreign ministers are urging Egypt to find a peaceful outcome to nationwide protests and have agreed to freeze the assets of Tunisia's ex-president.

European Union foreign ministers tackled two Arab hotspots, Egypt and Tunisia, during a meeting in Brussels. In a statement to reporters, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Egyptian authorities to immediately release all peaceful demonstrators in detention.

She also stressed the importance of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

"We believe these must be respected by the Egyptian authorities and the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people should be responded to,” Ashton said. “Their aspirations for a just, for a better future should be met, with urgent, concrete and decisive answer and with real steps."

The appeal came as Egypt was swept by more protests, with opposition groups calling for a million demonstrators to return to the streets of Cairo.

The 27-member European Union has longstanding ties with Egypt and the bloc has refrained from strongly criticizing the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

European foreign ministers also agreed to freeze the assets of former Tunisian leader Zine el Abidine Ben Ali and his wife. Switzerland has also frozen any assets the Ben Ali clan may have in its banks and the French government is investigating the family's assets in France.

Ben Ali's extended family has been accused of corruption and their vast wealth helped fuel the popular anger that led to his ouster earlier this month.