My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Mr Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr David Miliband) and Kim Darroch (UK permanent representative to the EU) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels.
The agenda items covered were as follows:
The council discussed the situation in Pakistan ahead of elections on 18 February. Foreign Ministers underlined the importance of maintaining pressure on the Government of Pakistan to ensure free and fair elections, including through the deployment of an EU election observation mission to Pakistan. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary intervened to encourage further thought within the EU on what it could do to support Pakistan after the elections, including in the areas of institution building and economic development.
The council discussed the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and events on the Egyptian border. Foreign Ministers emphasised the EU’s commitment to helping Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt find a solution to the current situation. The council highlighted the EU’s readiness to contribute to a peaceful solution, including through the resumption of the EU’s border monitoring mission at Rafah.
The council adopted conclusions encouraging the parties to honour their road map commitments, particularly on Israeli settlements and on Palestinian security, and welcoming the achievements of the Paris donors’ conference.
The council adopted conclusions on Lebanon condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Beirut and welcoming mediation efforts by the Arab League in resolving the political crisis.
The council discussed the latest situation in Kenya following recent presidential elections. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary intervened to underline the seriousness of developments in Kenya and urge continued EU support for the African Union and Kofi Annan in their efforts to help Kenya’s political leaders reach agreement on resolving the crisis.
The council adopted conclusions condemning the violence, expressing concern about the seriousness of the humanitarian situation in Kenya and urging all parties to engage constructively in dialogue to find a sustainable political solution to the crisis.
Sudan/Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR)
UN envoy to the Darfur political process Jan Eliasson briefed the council on the humanitarian and political situation in Darfur. He underlined that it was important the international community urged all parties to cease hostilities and engage in the peace process. In discussion, Foreign Ministers highlighted the need for continued EU pressure on the Government of Sudan to co-operate fully with the prompt deployment of an effective African Union-UN peacekeeping force to Darfur and to implement the comprehensive peace agreement as the basis for peace and development in Sudan.
The council adopted conclusions on Sudan welcoming the return of the parties to the comprehensive peace agreement to the Government of national unity. The council also highlighted the importance of humanitarian access to the people of Darfur, urging all parties in the conflict to cease hostilities, and to engage constructively with the peace process mediated by the UN and African Union envoys.
The council also underlined its concern at the deterioration of the security situation in neighbouring Chad and agreed to launch an EU military operation in Chad and the CAR, which will contribute towards an improved security situation in those countries by protecting displaced persons and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The high representative for the common foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, briefed the council on his recent contact with the Iranian authorities and on the decision by the E3+3 (Germany, France, UK, China, Russia and the US) to start consultations in New York on a further sanctions resolution given the lack of Iranian co-operation. The Government support discussion of a further resolution in New York, given the lack of progress and strengthening of the EU’s measures in support of action by the UN Security Council.
Discussion of the western Balkans focused on Serbia. Foreign Ministers agreed to invite Serbia to sign a political agreement on co-operation with the EU and establish a task force to assist Serbia to meet the conditions which would enable it to make accelerated progress towards a stabilisation and association agreement. The Government support this political agreement, believing it sends a positive signal of the EU’s commitment to Serbia’s European future.