I write on my way back from Saudi Arabia, where I took part – for the second time in a row – in the annual summit of the Arab League. This year’s summit was even more important than the usual ones, in such a delicate moment for the war in Syria.
The European Union is always opposed to the use of chemical weapons – we repeated it right after last week’s attack in the outskirts of Damascus – and we support the efforts to prevent new chemical attacks. At the same time, we know that the only possible solution to the Syrian tragedy is a political solution, not military, through the Geneva negotiations led by the United Nations. This is the position of the entire European Union – and I restated it yesterday, on behalf of all 28 countries of the Union, with this declaration.
Today, in Saudi Arabia, I spoke about this – and about the other regional crises – with the UN Special Envoy Staffan del Mistura and with many of our regional interlocutors: Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the King of Jordan Abdullah II, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the Emir of Kuwait Sabah al Ahmad al Jaber al Sabah, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, the Foreign Ministers of Iraq Ibrahim al Jaafari, of Kuwait Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, and of Morocco Nasser Bourita, the Secretary Generals of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, and of the African Union, Moussa Faki.
In just over a week, we will host – as European Union – the second Brussels Conference on the future of Syria. It will be the first opportunity to shift the focus on diplomacy and peacemaking, and to try and bring the Syrian parties to the negotiating table in Geneva. Here is my speech today at the Arab League’s Summit – on Syria and the other conflicts in the Middle East.
During the week I stayed in contact with the governments of the United States, France and the United Kingdom, and on Friday morning I met in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. I also met with the new German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. Tomorrow I will gather with all the European Union’s Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg, to discuss the situation in Syria and preparare the Brussels Conference.
Some other important meetings from this week. On Wednesday I hosted the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, and during the week I spoke to the Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Luis Videgaray Caso, and Peru, Ricardo Luna Mendoza. On Thursday I met with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbenkov; New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters; and the President of Tunisia’s Ennahda party, Rachid Gannouchi. I also met with Skopje’s Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, ahead of the communication we will present this week on the candidate countries to EU membership and ahead of my visit to the Balkans in a few days time – press release here.