In Saudi Arabia for Syria. Then Tunisia and Malta, with our Mediterranean youth

In Saudi Arabia for Syria. Then Tunisia and Malta, with our Mediterranean youth

I write as I come back from three days in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Malta, while the earth keeps shaking in Central Italy. The world is impressed by the courage and the strength of the Italian citizens, the local civil servants and the relief workers. Everywhere I go, in these difficult days, I feel the solidarity and the admiration for Italy. This does not come as a surprise: everyone knows the strength of the Italians. But strength needs to be accompanied with concrete solidarity: for this reason the European institutions have agreed to all requests coming from Italy, and it will be important to keep doing so. In Riyad, a few hours after my visit to Tehran, I met with King Salman and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nizar Madani: we discussed how to create space for a regional agreement on the future of Syria, supporting the work the United Nations are doing, and how to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the areas hit harder by the conflict, starting with Aleppo. In Tunis I met with President Beji Caid Essebsi, Prime Minister Yussef Chahed and Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, to discuss how to best use the European Union’s support to Tunisia’s democratic transition. We focused particularly on providing a job and an opportunity to half of the Tunisian population who’s under 30 (here is the press conference with FM Jhinaoui). It was important for me to meet engineering students in Bizerte and young “start-uppers” in Tunis: I witnessed to their will to change their country, and I saw immense energy that is needed not only by Tunisia, but by the whole Mediterranean. In Bizerte we also inaugurated a big project, co-financed by the European...
Back to Saudi Arabia (with a good story of strong women)

Back to Saudi Arabia (with a good story of strong women)

I write as I get back from Jeddah, for my second bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia: I spent two days in political meetings and had a great rendez-vous with a group of women working in politics, in business and in the media. Just days before the beginning of Ramadan – when millions of worshippers will gather to the nearby city of Mecca – I had a long conversation with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al Jubeir. We agreed on the need to reinforce our bilateral cooperation on the economy, to work together against terrorism and on some of the current crises in the area, particularly on Syria, Yemen and Libya. We also decided to keep an open channel for dialogue on some of the issue the European Union cares the most about, including human rights, anti-radicalisation policies, the promotion of rights and opportunities for women. (Here is my press conference with al Jubeir). Yesterday I also had the opportunity to see Abdullatif al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which had gathered in Jeddah. Next July Brussels will host the EU/GCC Ministerial meeting, and we are already at work to strengthen our economic and political cooperation, particularly on all regional crises. During all my official visits I always try to meet representatives of the civil society, and I did the same in Saudi Arabia. These are precious exchanges to understand each country’s reality – and to look beyond stereotypes. This is what happened today during a meeting at Jeddah’s Chamber of Commerce, with Vice-president Lama Suleiman. She is the first woman to be appointed to that post. With her were women lawyers and journalists, women who work in...
A report to relaunch the two-State perspective in the Middle East

A report to relaunch the two-State perspective in the Middle East

I gathered the Middle East Quartet in Munich yesterday – John Kerry for the US, Sergei Lavrov for Russia, Jan Eliasson representing Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations. As crises around us multiply we cannot forget the need and the urgency to help build a solution for the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We have decided to immediately work together on a report, which will include recommendations for relaunching the two-State perspective. We will do this in coordination with the UN Security Council and with the main regional actors: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia – on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. And we will do this in strong coordination with the parties. This is why yesterday I called Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, who assured to me their willingness to engage in this new process. Here is the video of the press conference after the...

Beyond the Saudi-Iranian tensions. Speech at the European Parliament

Thank you Madame Chair, Before I get into the details of today’s topic, let me spend just a few words on what happened in Vienna over the weekend. We showed that, exactly six months after the agreement we reached, Iran has kept its commitments with the international community. Let me remind you that six months ago, the sceptics were still telling us that Iran would not comply with its obligations. Obviously, this was an agreement against nuclear proliferation. But there is another element of satisfaction: we have showed that multilateralism and diplomacy can work, and they deliver. There are two other elements of hope: the opportunities for relation of Iran with the rest of the world; and the fact that this agreement could open the way to different relations in the region. We need to invest in the possibility of different relations in the region. We cannot be naïve and believe this will happen overnight. We will face obstacles, and setbacks. The willingness of Iran to further cooperate on regional matters will have to be tested. Six months ago we said: their will to implement the deal will have to be tested. So (Implementation day) is an encouraging development on this too. Think back to just one year ago: many believed we would never manage to agree on a strong deal with Teheran. We proved them wrong. And if we keep working hard and together, I am sure we will keep surprising the sceptics. Dialogue among all regional powers – starting with Saudi Arabia and Iran – is the only way out of the current turmoil in the Middle...