EU — Remarks on Foreign Affairs Council

Remarks by EU High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cather­ine Ash­ton upon arrival to the For­eign Affairs Coun­cil
“Today we have For­eign Affairs Coun­cil first with all for­eign min­is­ters and then lat­er today with defence min­is­ters.
The key issues for today’s dis­cus­sions of for­eign min­is­ters will be first of all to report back on my vis­it to Libya, to Beng­hazi yes­ter­day. We will talk about the dis­cus­sions I had with the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil there.

Then we’ll be dis­cussing the key issues of the neigh­bour­hood, par­tic­u­lar­ly Syr­ia and the very wor­ry­ing sit­u­a­tion there. You know there are fur­ther dis­cus­sions and con­clu­sions to be reached today in term of sanctions.

We’ll also be express­ing our con­cerns about what’s hap­pen­ing in Yemen and the fail­ure of Pres­i­dent Saleh once again to sign and to take his coun­try forward.

And then to look at the Mid­dle East Peace Process in the light of Pres­i­dent Obama’s speech. I was in Wash­ing­ton last week in dis­cus­sions with the White House and the State Depart­ment on this as well as many oth­er questions.

And we’ll also be look­ing for­ward to my trip lat­er this week to Ser­bia and Koso­vo and dis­cussing Bosnia and the can­cel­la­tion of the ref­er­en­dum there. And then final­ly a dis­cus­sion on Belarus. 

I was yes­ter­day in Beng­hazi, Libya as you know. The pur­pose of that vis­it was to open the office of the Euro­pean Union. That is a place now were we can chan­nel our resources and where we can make contact.

I saw peo­ple from civ­il soci­ety, I met young peo­ple, women’s groups, peo­ple in the media. There are now 55 news­pa­pers that have been opened in Beng­hazi in recent weeks. They are begin­ning to move for­ward and look­ing at the future, look­ing at how they deal with health, with edu­ca­tion, with the econ­o­my and so on.

Peo­ple are say­ing that they’ve already moved into the future and start­ed to push for­ward. Of course there is still the big issue of Gaddafi. Our con­sis­tent posi­tion is that he should go and that those who want to see the future for Libya as a democ­ra­cy, as a place where every­body can be respect­ed, need to get togeth­er now and take that forward.


On Syr­ia, I’ve already made it clear to the For­eign Min­is­ter that it’s extreme­ly impor­tant for Syr­ia to exer­cise restraint.

The gov­ern­ment needs to under­stand that peo­ple are ask­ing by peace­ful protests for the kind of reforms that the gov­ern­ment had said they’d be inter­est­ed in and they now ought to try and engage prop­er­ly and do that.

And they should do it now because there are so many peo­ple who have died and been injured. It’s a ter­ri­ble tragedy.


On Bahrain, I spent some time with the King of Bahrain when I was recent­ly in the Gulf. And I said to him we have high expec­ta­tions of what the Crown Prince’s ini­tia­tive can do and the need to have a dia­logue with the people.

I believe they all under­stand what needs to be done. And the ques­tion now is to do it. The issues are about how to move for­ward with peo­ple who want to see change.

But I believe, if they real­ly are deter­mined, then the King and the Crown Prince could lead the process and I hope they do.


We have to look now at what we say to Yemen. I spoke to Pres­i­dent Saleh some weeks ago. I said to him then he knew what to do to save his coun­try. It’s very obvi­ous that he had good dis­cus­sions with the oppo­si­tion and that he knows how to take his coun­try for­ward. The work of the GCC has been extra­or­di­nary and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates are ful­ly engaged. When I was in the Gulf recent­ly we were dis­cussing this, so he real­ly does know what to do.

I want to talk with the GCC before I do any­thing fur­ther because it is impor­tant to under­stand exact­ly what the posi­tion is. But our ambas­sador on the ground has just been an observ­er to what’s been hap­pen­ing, with the Amer­i­cans he’s been in the dis­cus­sions and he and I will talk lat­er on today. 

On Iran, Dr Jalili wrote to me recent­ly and unfor­tu­nate­ly just reit­er­at­ed to the old Iran­ian posi­tions. We want them to move for­ward with the nuclear talks.

You know what my views are on Human rights in Iran. It’s very impor­tant that we keep the pres­sure on for the peo­ple and try to stop them going ahead with exe­cu­tions, with the approach they take to their people.


On the Mid­dle East Peace Process, the Euro­pean Union has had a com­mon posi­tion for long time which says that they should start the process on the basis of the 1967 bor­ders with land swaps to reflect the changes that have hap­pened on the ground.

We stand by the posi­tion that we’ve had con­sis­tent­ly, first in Decem­ber 2009 and then we reit­er­at­ed again last year. And we believe that’s a good place to begin the negotiations.

Most impor­tant­ly we believe it’s in Israel’s real inter­est for the peo­ple of Israel and the peo­ple of Pales­tine to get those nego­ti­a­tions mov­ing now.


At lunch, we will dis­cuss the EEAS. This is not about chang­ing the EEAS, despite what­ev­er the news­pa­pers want to write about us. What we want­ed to do is to have a con­ver­sa­tion with For­eign Min­is­ters about how do we make the EEAS even bet­ter than it is, to ask them how they feel things work on the ground because with 135 del­e­ga­tions everyone’s learn­ing how col­lab­o­rate bet­ter post- Lisbon.

In this time of eco­nom­ic aus­ter­i­ty, we need to make sure that the ser­vices are focus­ing on the things that we all think are great pri­or­i­ties. It’s going to be a good dis­cus­sion and I’m look­ing for­ward to it.” 

Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union 

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