UN General Assembly, day 3: inspiration from Colombia, at work for Syria and Libya

UN General Assembly, day 3: inspiration from Colombia, at work for Syria and Libya

The United Nation’s General Assembly showcases a catalogue of the world’s dramas and its success stories. So, on the day of the official opening of the Assembly, I had the joy and the honour to receive from Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos a copy of the historic peace agreement with the FARC that he’ll sign next Monday in Cartagena, after 50 bloody years of conflict. The European Union has followed the negotiations during these years, and we will stand concretely on Colombia’s side during the implementation of the deal. The courage shown by Colombia should inspire the world: it can be hard and painful, but even the most terrible of conflicts can be solved if we resort to politics, not violence. (It’s also the theme of my video-message for the International Peace Day, here).

This is the difficult path we are trying to follow on Syria: we have worked on it at the meeting of the International Syria Support Group in New York, and again in the evening at the informal meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers.

The situation on the ground remains dramatic: the attack on a humanitarian convoy with the flag of the World Food Program was an unacceptable violation of international law, a barbaric attack that imperils the delivery of humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of starving Syrians (here is my joint statement with Christos Stylianides). Despite all difficulties, the truce agreed by Russia and the United States one week ago must be reinstalled and preserved. It is up to the US and Russia – as the Group’s co-chairs – to guarantee its respect, but it is also up to the parties on the ground. All regional and global powers have a duty to use their influence and convince the parties to stop all violence, to allow access for humanitarian aid and to let a real political process restart. The truce is not dead yet: it has to be relaunched and reinforced. We are meeting again on Friday here in New York, to continue our work, albeit difficult, with tenacity.

The other crisis I focused on, yesterday in New York, is just as crucial for Europe: Libya. To prepare the meeting of the international group for Libya, which we’ll held tomorrow here in New York, I met with the envoy of the UN Secretary general, Martin Kobler, and Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj. I confirmed to both of them that the European Union will continue to support their work. The Libyans need to know that the international community is with them. The European Union is sending a 100 million euros aid package; the European naval operation Sophia has started to enforce the arms embargo off the coast of Libya; and we are ready to train the Libyan coast guard. But it is up to the Libyans to shape their own future, and preserve it from those – inside and outside the country – who have no interest in rebuilding Libya.

The whole region needs a stable Libya. Europe needs it, as much as neighbouring countries, starting with Tunisia. I spoke about that with Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui: I guaranteed our determination to support his country as the region struggles to find its balance.

Still, in the middle of so many crises and beyond the frustration that might come with our efforts, the world and our region itself are also providing us with some good news. From Bosnia, for instance: no longer than twenty years ago the country was at war, today it is heading steadily towards the European Union. I discussed this with the Chairman of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic (and here are the Council Conclusions accepting Bosnia’s application to join the EU).

This is our European Union’s power: to build peace, development and reconciliation. At times we forget about it, and our global friends and partners have to remind it to us. It happened again last night, at the reception with Ban Ki-moon in the European Union’s delegation: a great number of presidents, prime ministers, NGOs and think-tanks from all over the world joined us to celebrate our common EU-UN work, and the strength of our Union. Such strength we too often ignore, but the world acknowledges it, and needs it.