For the future of Syria

For the future of Syria

Today I write on my way back from Luxembourg: during the Foreign Affairs Council I chaired, we followed together the terrible news coming from Saint Petersburg. I expressed the European Union’s condolences to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – here is our statement.

The Council today dealt mostly with Syria. Starting tomorrow, we will host in Brussels the international conference on supporting the future of Syria: a meeting with more that 70 delegations to keep helping the Syrian population inside and outside Syria, but also – and crucially – to accompany the negotiations in Geneva and the UN mediation, and to start discussing how to mobilise resources to rebuild Syria after the war, when a political transition will be under way.

Today, with the Foreign Minister, we have defined the common European position, with a common European Union’s strategy for Syria. Here are the conclusions we adopted, here the text of the Syria Strategy, here what I told journalists ahead of the Council, here the final press conference.

In Luxembourg we also hosted the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, after last week I had the honour to take part in the League’s summit in Jordan.

My presence at the summit in Jordan and Abul Gheit’s participation in the Council today both testify an ever stronger cooperation between the European Union and the Arab League. And our cooperation is essential to address the crises in our common region. Today we focused particularly on Libya and Yemen – here are the Council conclusions on the latter –, but also on Syria, Iraq and the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Here is my press point today with Ahmed Aboul Gheit, here my speech at the summit in Jordan.

The Arab League summit was also an opportunity to meet several leaders from the region. Of course I met with our Jordanian hosts: king Abdullah II, Prime Minister Hani Mulki, Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi. Then the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Adel Al-Jubeir, of the United Arab Emirates Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, of Morocco Salaheddine Mezouar, and the US President’s Special Representative Jason Greenblatt.

We focused in particular on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, after my Brussels meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday last week  (here is our press conference). In Jordan I discussed peace in the Middle East in a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Jordan, Ayman Al-Safadi, of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat. I confirmed to everyone that for us, Europeans, the only realistic solution is a two-state solution: we will continue to work with all the international community – including our American friends – to help the Israelis and the Palestinians proceed with concrete steps towards peace.

Two other important issues. Last week, Britain officially announced their intention to start negotiations to leave the European Union. It is a painful choice, which will take its toll mostly on British citizens. The European Union remains a global power, the greatest market in the world, a space for rights and freedoms, an indispensable force to protect our citizens and their interests in a globalised world.

Today, there are many who say they want to “give control” back to the citizens. But the only way to truly give the control of their own lives back to our citizens is through a stronger Europe. We can only control our economies, our security and migratory flows if we do it together, as a European Union.

At the end of the negotiation, Britain will be an important partner, even if outside our Union. I talked about our security and defence cooperation with the UK at the NATO ministerial meeting last Friday in Brussels – here is the video.

Finally, last week was also intense for our work with our Eastern partners, with the Association Council with Moldova (the video is here) and my meeting with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.