The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), Federica Mogherini, chaired the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) in Luxembourg on 14 October. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa attended the meeting.
The HRVP and Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views on a number of pressing issues. On Iran, they recalled their commitment to the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPoA) and highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to de-escalate tensions. The United Kingdom highlighted the importance of the joint comprehensive plan of action, the instrument in support of trade exchanges (INSTEX) and our participation in the international maritime security construct.
On Libya, Ministers expressed their support for the resumption of the UN-led political process. The United Kingdom expressed full support for German efforts to boost regional co-operation, and the importance of strict enforcement of the UN arms embargo.
The HRVP encouraged Ministers to participate in the international solidarity conference on the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis on 28-29 October in Brussels.
Ministers discussed the latest developments in Syria. The UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, briefed Ministers on the political process and preparations for the Constitutional Committee’s first meeting, due to take place at the end of October. He also expressed his concern over Turkey's military action in north-east Syria and the risks for the political process. Foreign Ministers reiterated their full support for the special envoy.
The Council condemned Turkey’s unilateral military action, noting its impact on regional stability and security and the UN-led peace process, humanitarian assistance, and the global coalition’s progress to defeat Daesh (which remained a threat to European security as well as Turkey’s, regional and international security). The conclusions, while noting that Turkey was a key partner of the European Union and a critically important actor in the Syrian crisis and the region, urged Turkey to cease its unilateral military action in north-east Syria and to withdraw its forces. They also reiterated the EU’s commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian state, and urged a political and diplomatic resolution to security concerns in north-east Syria.
The conclusions recalled some member states’ decision to immediately halt arms exports licensing to Turkey and called for a ministerial meeting of the international coalition against Daesh to address how to pursue its efforts in this regard.
The conclusions reiterated that the EU would not provide stabilisation or development assistance in areas where the rights of local populations are ignored or violated, and that it remained engaged in addressing the humanitarian and refugee crisis.
Turkey’s drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean
Ministers discussed Turkey’s drilling in the waters around Cyprus. The United Kingdom stressed that Turkey must respect Cyprus’ sovereignty and supported calls for dialogue.
The Council adopted conclusions reaffirming the EU’s solidarity with Cyprus regarding the respect of its sovereignty, and noted that delimitations of exclusive economic zones should be addressed through dialogue and negotiation in full respect of international law and in accordance with the principle of good neighbourly relations.
The Council agreed to put in place a framework regime of restrictive measures targeting natural and legal persons responsible for or involved in the illegal drilling activity of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.
Ministers had a brief exchange of views in preparation for the discussion with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko over the working lunch.
The discussion was postponed to the Foreign Affairs Council meeting of 11 November 2019 due to time constraints.
Lunch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ukraine Vadym Prystaiko
Over lunch, Foreign Minister Prystaiko briefed on Ukrainian reform plans. The Minister for the Middle East and North Africa underlined the United Kingdom’s commitment to supporting Ukraine on reforms and stressed the need for the EU to remain focused on Russian influence. Ministers reaffirmed the EU’s strong commitment to Ukraine, both to its territorial integrity and security and to its Government's efforts on the reforms process.
The Council agreed a number of further measures:
The Council adopted conclusions on the continued presence of Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina to support authorities in maintaining a safe and secure environment for its citizens.
The Council adopted conclusions to extend restrictive measures addressing the use and proliferation of chemical weapons until 16 October 2020.
The Council adopted conclusions renewing its commitment to democracy in a changing global context.
The Council adopted conclusions to adopt a framework for targeted restrictive measures in light of the situation in Nicaragua.
The Council adopted conclusions on its engagement with Thailand.
The Council adopted conclusions on human rights, the rule of law and the fundamental freedoms of the citizens of Cameroon.