My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett) and Sir John Grant (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 17 July.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
Presentation of Presidency Priorities: The council took note of the presidency priorities which included the Middle East, enlargement, energy, Central Asia, human rights and relations with Russia.
Migration: The council adopted Conclusions: welcoming the outcome of the Euro-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development in Rabat on 10 to 11 July; expressing its concern about the increasing illegal migratory flows in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic; and underlining the need to address the situation, including further work on East African routes.
World Trade Organisation/Doha Development Agenda (WTO/DDA): Commissioner Mandelson briefed the council on developments in the current round of trade negotiations.
Procedural Conclusions were adopted allowing the council to meet in special session in July or August if a WTO Ministerial were called.
Sudan/Darfur: High Representative Solana stressed the need for the international community to continue support for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) until UN transition, as well as putting pressure on the Sudanese Government to accept the UN mission. The High Representative hoped that a high-level conference in Brussels on 18 July would make progress on both these issues.
The council adopted Conclusions: reiterating EU support for the Darfur Peace Agreement; emphasising the importance of an effective AMIS; and urging the Sudanese government to agree to UN transition.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): The council discussed the forthcoming elections in DRC on 30 July. External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said that the EU's election observation mission in DRC, working with other international delegations and with MONUC (UN mission in DRC) and EUFOR (EU force in DRC) on security issues, should help ensure a smooth election process.
The council agreed Conclusions urging the Congolese to seize the opportunity offered by the elections and the authorities to fully comply with democratic principles and noting the ongoing deployment of the EUFOR and the EU election observation mission.
Western Balkans: The Council was briefed by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari on the state of play of the Kosovo status process. The EU would have a key role to play in Kosovo post-settlement.
The council adopted Conclusions on Kosovo reiterating its full support for Ahtisaari and his efforts in conducting the political process to determine Kosovo's future status and welcoming the joint report by High Representative Solana and the Commissioner for Enlargement Rehn on the future EU role and contribution in Kosovo.
Conclusions on Macedonia welcomed the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's preliminary assessment that overall parliamentary elections on5 July met international standards, despite some isolated incidents.
The council also adopted Conclusions recognising Montenegro as a sovereign state and highlighting the importance of regional co-operation in the framework of the stabilisation and association process.
An Extended Troika (the presidency, incoming presidency, Enlargement Commissioner Rehn and High Representative Solana) met Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica after the GAERC on 17 July to discuss Serbia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the action plan that Serbia had drawn up on how to deliver on its ICTY commitments.
The presidency stressed that Serbia must begin to implement the action plan immediately with full co-operation with ICTY being a condition for restarting stabilisation and association agreement negotiations.
Middle East Peace Process: High Representative Solana briefed the council on his trip to Lebanon on 16 July.
The council adopted Conclusions: expressing concern at the situation in the Middle East, particularly the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the destruction of civilian infrastructure; supporting the idea of a possible international monitoring presence in Lebanon; and calling for international engagement, especially through High Representative Solana, to de-escalate the crisis.
Iran: High Representative Solana briefed the council on his 11 July meeting with Iranian chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
The council adopted Conclusions covering the nuclear file, Iran's approach to the Middle East Peace Process, terrorism and human rights.