Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, visited the European Parliament today to debrief the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the October 15 Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission (HR/VP), Catherine Ashton.
“It is my pleasure to meet with the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament on behalf of HR/VP Ashton to report on the Foreign Affairs Council. This was a successful and productive Council,” stated Minister Marcoullis. She proceeded to brief the AFET on the October FAC discussions on issues including Syria, the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, Mali/Sahel, the Eastern Neighbourhood and the Follow up to the EU China Summit.
The Minister also informed the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the dinner of the EU Foreign Ministers with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, during which bilateral and international issues, including Syria, Iran and Mali were discussed.
“It was a long and lively discussion, during which each side put forward their arguments with frankness and seriousness”, commented Dr. Marcoullis.
EU policy on Syria
Responding to questions, Dr. Marcoullis talked about EU policy on Syria, underlining that the immediate priority is to stop the killings, and stressing that the restrictive measures adopted by the October FAC do not target the civilian population. She repeated the Council’s full support to the efforts of the UN-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, emphasizing that the efforts to address the humanitarian crisis are at the forefront of the EU’s efforts. Minister Marcoullis also conveyed the concern of the Council regarding the spill-over effects of the Syrian crisis in neighboring countries.
On the issue of the Middle East Peace Process, Dr. Marcoullis said that the Member States are united in the goal of re-launching talks between Israel and the Palestinians with a view to securing a negotiated two-state solution that delivers peace and stability for both sides. Replying to specific questions on Israeli settlements, the Minister reiterated the EU position on this matter, expressed also in Council Conclusions, that settlements remain illegal under international law, and are detrimental to efforts for a negotiated settlement.
Situation in Iran and Mali
On Iran, the Minister informed on new restrictive measures agreed in the October FAC, stressing that, at the same time, the Council reaffirmed the aim of the European Union to work for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. Sanctions are not an end in themselves, stated the Minister. It is a part of a dual track approach, with also a strong diplomatic track, in which we have put on the table some confidence-building proposals.
Dr. Marcoullis stressed that the situation in Mali continues to raise severe concerns. The UN Security Council recently adopted a Resolution, which includes a call on the EU to provide help and expertise to support the security forces of Mali. To this end, the Council adopted Conclusions which call for a Crisis Management Concept for an EU military mission to restructure and retrain the Malian army. The goal of the EU is the re-establishment of the rule of law and a democratic government that controls the whole country. The Council also welcomed the appointment of Romano Prodi as UN Special Representative to the Sahel, and underlined the need to work closely with the UN, the AU and ECOWAS.
Mr. Eduard Kukan, who chaired the meeting, thanked the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the debrief and the constructive exchange of views with the AFET members.