Europe calls on military to stand aside in Egypt

BRUSSELS (AFP) - European Union (EU) foreign ministers called on Monday on Egypt's military to stand aside and allow a peaceful transition to civilian rule after ousting the elected government earlier this month.

Expressing "deep concern" over developments in Egypt, ministers said "the armed forces should not play a political role in a democracy."

Instead they "must accept and respect the constitutional authority of civilian power as a basic principle".

"It is now of utmost importance that Egypt embarks on a transition, allowing a transfer of power to a civilian-led and democratically elected government," ministers said in a statement after a regular meeting.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton recently visited Egypt to convey the same concerns and arriving for the meeting earlier on Monday stressed again the importance of a democratic transition.

"We will be looking to make sure that Egypt gets back on the path to democracy," Baroness Ashton said, adding that "this is about democracy, making sure that that happens".

Egypt's toppled president Mohamed Mursi has been detained at an unknown location since his overthrow by the army on July 3 following mass protests against him.

Several countries, including the United States and Germany, have called for his release but the interim government has rejected these calls, saying that he is being held in a "safe place".

EU foreign ministers said "Egypt has to move rapidly to an inclusive democratic transformation process, including by the holding of democratic elections in the shortest possible time".

Among a list of demands, ministers cited an "end to politically motivated arrests" and "the release of all political detainees, including Mohamed Morsi".

The European Union remained ready to "assist the Egyptian people in their desire for a democratic and prosperous future," they concluded.