Uutinen 10.12.2010

Foreign Ministers to discuss Middle East and Africa

Press release 361/2010
10 December 2010

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 13 December. The Middle East will probably be the main item on the long agenda. Finland will be represented in the Council by Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb.

With regard to the Middle East Peace Process, Finland considers that the current role of the EU is to give solid background support to the negotiation process lead by the United States. The direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that have been taking place since September were discontinued once Israel restarted settlement construction. Finland firmly encourages both parties to continue the negotiations. Furthermore, Finland underlines that measures for relieving the situation in Gaza should be enforced soon and the EU should be ready to give concrete support for opening traffic on the Gaza borders. Finland also prioritizes allowing import of construction materials to Gaza to build schools.

The Foreign Ministers will discuss the situation in Somalia and the support to the country’s interim government. The country’s security status is critical and operational preconditions for the interim government are weak. In Finland’s view, the difficult situation in Somalia requires a comprehensive approach to intervene in problems on land and on the sea. The EU anti-piracy operation Atalanta has succeeded in its main task: securing shipments of the World Food Program. Therefore, Finland supports continuing the operation by two years. However, the fundamental reasons behind piracy can only be tackled on land, thus the EU should put more effort on enhancing legal systems and capacities for maritime surveillance in the region. Finland points out that achieving peace in the Horn of Africa requires positive engagement of all the countries in the region.

The Council will discuss the situation in Afghanistan after the parliamentary elections and the reconciliation process between the local government and insurgents. The EU should advice President Karzai to convene the new parliament as soon as possible. Finland sees that the terms of reconciliation should be adhered to, so that the progress made especially in human rights and women’s equality is not lost. The international community should focus on strengthening the Afghan government, because strong governance would also facilitate transferring the responsibility for security to the Afghan troops.

The Foreign Ministers will discuss the internal situation in Moldova after the November parliamentary elections. Finland encourages the parties to start dialogue for electing a President to avoid heading to another parliamentary elections. Solving the country’s constitutional crisis is an important long-term challenge that cannot be taken up until the country has formed a new government. Electing a President and correcting the constitution require accountability and good cooperation between the ruling parties and the opposition.

The Council will also discuss the Western Balkans. Topics include the December Parliamentary elections in Kosovo and the outcomes of the October elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the process for forming a government.

The Foreign Ministers will continue discussion about Iran and Sudan of the previous Council meeting. With regard to Iran, important issues include the country’s nuclear programme and the alarming human rights situation. As for Sudan, discussion will continue on the EU actions ahead of the referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan in January.

The Council will also discuss the EU strategic partners. The Council will discuss the progress report prepared by High Representative Ashton that will be presented to the December European Council.

Other items include Lithuanian chair in the OSCE next year and the Council priorities for 2011.

Further information: Counsellor Lasse Keisalo, Ministry for Foreign Affairs Unit for European Common Foreign and Security Policy, tel. +358 9 1605 5330 or +358 40 505 2046, and Päivi Pohjanheimo, Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 5332 or +358 40 511 3786.