My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 February in Brussels. The FAC will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.
Ministers will discuss the continuing crisis in Syria and the EU’s response, including the EU arms embargo, in advance of the roll over of the EU sanctions package, due on 1 March. We are urging EU partners to look at all options to protect civilians and to assist the National Coalition and opposition groups opposed to extremism, including amendment of the EU sanctions regime.
Middle East Peace Process
The discussion will build on January’s FAC, which agreed that it was important to engage with the US Administration on the middle east peace process. Ministers will also discuss the EU’s approach to settlements; Gaza; Palestinian recognition; and Palestinian Authority finances. The UK will emphasise the need for the FAC to agree concrete steps the EU could take to help support a renewed US-led initiative on the peace process. The UK will welcome discussion of settlements and Palestinian financing, and will reiterate the importance of EU action that supports the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire efforts, and addresses the underlying causes of the conflict in Gaza.
Ministers will discuss the current political crisis in Iraq and what actions the EU might take in response. The UK will encourage greater engagement with a broad range of Iraqi political actors to promote dialogue and restraint. We will also emphasise the need for the EU to consider its long-term engagement with Iraq to help prevent similar crises arising in future, including focusing on the development of the rule of law.
Ministers will take stock of the latest developments in Mali since the last FAC on 31 January. Discussions will focus on progress on the political track, including the Friends of Mali meeting which took place in Brussels on 5 February, and the EU’s response to the situation, including the establishment of an EU training mission to support Malian forces.
Ministers will have a discussion on the eastern partnership, looking ahead to November’s eastern partnership summit in Vilnius. I expect conclusions to be issued. The UK will reiterate its support for the eastern partnership process, which we see as an important driver for promoting economic and political reform in the region.