My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 20 January in Brussels. The Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland. The General Affairs Council (GAC) scheduled for 21 January 2014 has been cancelled. The next GAC will be on 11 February.
Foreign Affairs Council
Introduction - Iran
Baroness Ashton is expected to brief the FAC on the agreement between the E3+3 and Iran to begin implementation of the Geneva six-month deal on 20 January. Baroness Ashton is likely to look forward to talks on the comprehensive solution which will begin shortly. The Council is expected to adopt, without discussion, a Council decision and regulation to bring the six-month suspension of EU sanctions into force, as part of the Geneva agreement.
On Syria, we will set out our views on the need for active EU support of the Geneva II political process, due to begin on 22 January. This will include the need for the EU to give its united practical and political support to the national coalition, which the UK recognises as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people. We will also set out our views on what more could be done to address the humanitarian crisis following the Kuwait pledging conference on 15 January. The UK will give particular emphasis to calling for the regime to comply with the 2 October UN Security Council presidential statement, which demanded that humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach all Syrians. The UK will be active in the UN Security Council in seeking further action in support of this effort.
Ministers will discuss recent developments in Egypt, including concerns over freedom of expression and human rights in the lead up to the constitutional referendum. Ministers will hear an update from Baroness Ashton on the findings of the EU electoral experts mission. We will reiterate the importance of the EU providing a full election monitoring mission for the parliamentary and presidential elections. We will also encourage member states to consider how to maximise European External Action Service (EEAS) and member state influence with Egypt during its political transition.
Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)
The UK will want the FAC discussion to focus on how the EU can best support current MEPP negotiations led by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The December 2013 FAC conclusions sent a strong message of support for the ongoing negotiations by offering an unprecedented package of support for both parties in the event of a final status deal. The UK will note the importance of now coming up with bold and concrete proposals for incentives that meet the needs of both parties.
Ministers will discuss the EU’s future engagement in Afghanistan and the upcoming presidential elections. The UK will use this as an opportunity to underline the importance of the EU’s engagement in Afghanistan, both in the run up to the presidential elections and after transition. The FAC is likely to agree conclusions which commission the development of the EU’s future civilian strategy on Afghanistan. We will outline what we believe should be the key pillars of such a strategy.
Ministers will discuss Russia over lunch. They are likely to focus on ongoing preparations for the EU/Russia summit, taking place from 27 to 28 January, and on follow up on the Eastern Partnership after the Vilnius summit in November 2013. The Foreign Secretary will urge the EU to take a clear and united approach to Russia post-Vilnius, and to press for clear results at the forthcoming summit, including the resolution of prolonged trade disputes on Siberian overflights and vehicle recycling fees.
Central African Republic
Ministers will discuss the current situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) following the UN Security Council Resolution which authorised the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA), and the deployment of French forces to support MISCA in fulfilling its mandate of protecting civilians and contributing to the stabilization of the country. In particular, the discussion will consider options for EU support to address the country’s immediate security needs.
Ministers will discuss the situation in South Sudan and reaffirm EU support for the mediation efforts of regional leaders through the inter-governmental authority on development. The EU special representative for the horn of Africa is co-ordinating closely with envoys from the UK, US and Norway (the Troika). Diplomatic efforts are focused on pressing both sides for an immediate cessation of hostilities; securing the release of senior political figures detained by the Government since the outbreak of violence; and urging South Sudan’s neighbours to avoid any action that will escalate the conflict. Ministers will also discuss the humanitarian response and measures to ensure full humanitarian access to all those in need.