I have spent this week travelling between Central Asia, the Balkans and Brussels. First I was in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, to open the international conference for peace in Afghanistan together with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Uzbekistan’s Shavkat Mirziyoyev. It was an important moment, to gather international support for President Ghani’s proposal for negotiations between his government and the Taliban. I announced the European Union’s readiness to accompany this process with all our power – political, diplomatic and economic – to help rebuild the fabric of the Afghan society, its democracy, and to strengthen cooperation and connectivity between Afghanistan and its neighbours. Here is my speech at the opening of the Conference.
The Tashkent Conference was also the opportunity to meet bilaterally with President Ghani (here is the press release) and President Mirziyoyev, but also with India’s Foreign Minister MJ Akbar, Pakistan’s Muhammad Asif, and the five Central Asian Foreign Ministers: with them, we worked to push forward the decision we took in our meeting in Samarkand at the end of last year. Press release here.
From Uzbekistan to Belgrade, to discuss with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic about the future of the dialogue with Pristina – facilitated by the European Union – after a very serious episode of tension happened in Kosovo last Monday. Here is our joint statement.
Back to Brussels, on Wednesday: together with the European Commission we approved a plan to remove obstacles – both physical and bureaucratic – that make it difficult for European militaries to move within our continent. This is part of the work we have carried on over the last two years towards a Europe of defence. Press release here.
In Brussels I also had the pleasure to receive Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö: we discussed all the main issues facing our foreign policy, and particularly the Balkans, Iran, our relations with Russia, and cooperation in the Arctic.