Press Release – EU Foreign Ministers discuss the Middle East Peace Process
10.12.2012, 20:32 (CET)
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis participated today, December 10, in the last Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) during the Cyprus Presidency, chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton (HR).

The Middle East Peace Process, developments in Syria, Egypt and Libya, but also the Western Balkans and EU-Russia relations, were some of the issues on the FAC agenda.

“The situation in the Middle East in general I think will be the main issue we will be discussing, especially in the aftermath of the vote in the General Assembly and the decision of Israel to construct further settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem”, stated Minister Marcoullis, in a doorstep statement before the start of FAC discussions. On Israeli settlements Minister Marcoullis reminded that “the position of the EU is very clear.  We consider the settlements as illegal and in violation of international law”.

Dr. Marcoullis pointed out that the most important next step would be to re-launch negotiations so that “a comprehensive and durable solution is reached, which will allow the Palestinians to have their own state, safeguarding at the same time the security of Israel”.

Ministers agreed on Conclusions in the issue of the Middle East Peace Process, calling on the parties to engage in direct and substantial negotiations without pre-conditions in order to achieve a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem”, the Ministers underline.  At the same time, the FAC calls on the Palestinian leadership to use constructively the new status of non-member Observer State in the United Nations, and not to undertake steps which would deepen the lack of trust and lead further away from a negotiated solution.

Discussion with Syrian opposition leader

The EU Foreign Ministers also had the opportunity to exchange views with Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, President of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, at an informal meeting. “We are going to listen, ask questions see how we can be informed more about this coalition. For many member states it remains important to see whether this coalition is all inclusive and whether it can truly represent the Syrian people by including all the groups and all the different communities that exist in Syria”, stated Minister Marcoullis. 

In formal discussions, the FAC adopted Conclusions on Syria, stating that the EU is appalled by the increasingly deteriorating situation in Syria, and reiterating its “full support to the efforts of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi in finding a political solution to the crisis.”  In her intervention, Minister Marcoullis called for continuing the EU’s engagement with the US, Russia and China, which she characterized as imperative, “as UNSC action, in the form of a binding resolution, should be our objective, both as far as the political solution is concerned, as well as the dispatch of a robust peacekeeping operation in the aftermath of a ceasefire”.  In addition, the Minister underlined that Cyprus remains extremely worried about the possible full scale spillover effects and unpredictable humanitarian and security challenges that it presents for the entire region.

Update on Egypt, Libya and Western Balkans

Foreign Ministers also discussed recent developments in Egypt, while HR Ashton provided feedback on the recent fact-finding mission to Libya to explore possible cooperation on border management.

The FAC also held a discussion on the Western Balkans and particularly the foreign policy aspects of the enlargement package to be adopted by the General Affairs Council on December 11.

During a working lunch, the Foreign Ministers reviewed EU relations with Russia as well as the domestic and foreign policy outlook in the country in preparation of the EU-Russia Summit on December 21. “Achieving a coherent EU common denominator position vis-a-vis Russia should be based on a modern and pragmatic perception of what Russia is today,” stated Minister Marcoullis in her intervention, “while at the same time being persistent in the promotion of our values, and, simultaneously, acknowledging positive reforms adopted.”

Council Conclusions were also adopted on Ukraine, DRC, Mali, and DPRK.

In the evening, Minister Marcoullis participated in an informal dinner for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, hosted by the HR, on the occasion of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union.