The military junta which overthrew Mauritania's government must return that government to power for any future elections to count as valid, officials in Brussels said Thursday after coup leaders promised a poll, reported dpa.
The EU's executive, the European Commission, has "taken note" of the promise, but insists that "those elections should be held in the framework of the constitution," a spokesman for EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel said.
"In this connection, the release of the democratically-elected president and prime minister is an essential precondition," he said.
On Thursday the military clique which overthrew Mauritania's president and prime minister promised to hold "free and transparent" elections at an unspecified future date.
The EU is the largest single aid donor to Mauritania, and has pledged 156 million euros (242 million dollars) to the North African state over the next five years.
Hours after Wednesday's coup, Michel warned that it "risks calling into question our policy of cooperation with Mauritania," including the aid, and called for the release and return to office of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf.
Relations between the EU and Mauritania, including in matters of aid, are currently governed by the Cotonou Agreement of 2000.
According to Article 96 of the agreement, one side can summon the other for crisis talks - referred to as "formal consultations" - if it "considers that the other party has failed to fulfil an obligation stemming from respect for ... democratic principles."
If those consultations fail to resolve the crisis, the EU can take "appropriate measures," including suspending aid.
"The opening of formal consultations with Mauritania under Article 96 cannot be excluded," Michel's spokesman warned.
"The situation is fluid and we are evaluating it at the moment. The decision to move towards formal consultations will not be taken in a hurry," he said.