From Washington to Samarkand

From Washington to Samarkand

I write on my way back from Central Asia: in Kyrgyzstan first, for a bilateral visit, then in Uzbekistan, in Samarkand, for the annual meeting between the European Union and the Foreign Minister of five Central Asian countries. For centuries Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have been a crossroads between East and West. They still are. For our economies, as a strategic connection for international trade on the old Silk Road, and for energy. But also for our security, from Afghanistan to the fight against terrorism and the prevention of radicalisation.

These countries increasingly look at Europe not only as their first market and donor, but also as a strong and reliable political partner. In Samarkand we decided to strengthen our partnership for the years to come. The European Union has encouraged a lot, and continues to encourage, the reform process that has started in all five countries, at different speeds – be it economic reform or on justice, the rule of law and civil rights.

We discussed how to move forward this path towards reforms and change in all my bilateral meetings: in Bishkek with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, President-elect Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Prime Minister Sapar Isakov; in Samarkand with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov, of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, of Kyrgyzstan Erlan Abdyldayev, of Tajikistan Sirodjidin Aslov, and of Turkmenistan Raşit Meredow. Here is my speech in Samarkand and the final press conference.

My visit to Samarkand was also the opportunity to meet again with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to talk about the nuclear deal. The European Union is determined to make sure everyone implements the agreement, which is working as certified eight times by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I repeated the same in Washington, at the beginning of this week, in my meetings with Speaker Paul Ryan, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, the chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Senate and the House, Ed Royce and Bob Corker, Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Cardin, Representative Eliot Engel, and with the Director of IAEA Yukiya Amano.

With full respect for the legislative procedure in Congress after President Trump decertified Iran’s compliance, I confirmed that the European Union stands as one in supporting the deal, as crucial for our security. Reopening the deal is impossible, and the very hypothesis also weakens the possibility that North Korea will accept to negotiate on its own nuclear programme. Here is an op-ed on Iran I wrote for The Washington Post.

In the United States we also tackled the situation in the Gulf and the worrying political crisis in Lebanon, the Balkans and the support the US has just announced for the Joint Military Force of the five Sahel countries – which the European Union already supports with 50 million euros – but also European defence. Here is my press conference in Washington.

As we move towards a European Union of security and defence, we also continue to strengthen our cooperation with NATO. On Wednesday, in Brussels, I met again with NATO Defence Ministers, including the US’ James Mattis. We mostly discussed North Korea, as I explained to journalists ahead of the meeting.

One last nice thing from this week. On Wednesday night, in Brussels, I met with a group of young Europeans and Africans, to prepare together this month’s summit between the European Union and the African Union. We want the summit to be not only a moment for Heads of State and government to agree on measure for our youth, but a moment for the European and African youth to lead the way, showing us their priorities and their choices for their present and future. Here is the video of our meeting.