Uutinen 20.5.2011

The EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss the Middle East and the Southern Neighbourhood

Press release 151/2011

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will meet in Brussels on 23 May. The main topics of the meeting are the Middle East peace process and the situation in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood.

The Council will discuss the Middle East peace process and the Palestinian agreement to restore national unity. In Finland’s view, the announced reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and their establishment of a joint Government are encouraging developments. The future joint Government must be evaluated on the basis of its actions. Finland stresses that the role of the Quartet in the peace process must be strengthened. It must be possible to begin peace negotiations quickly, and they must proceed with determination.

The Foreign Ministers will exchange views on the situation in the Southern Neighbourhood, especially in Libya, Syria and Yemen. As concerns Libya, there will be discussion of support for the Transitional National Council (TNC) representing the opposition and of the political process. With regard to Syria, Finland stresses that the country’s leaders must immediately cease the use of violence, must implement the reforms that have been demanded, and must create conditions enabling dialogue between the different groups. In Yemen, too, citizens must be supported in their efforts to achieve human rights, democracy and a worthy life.

The Foreign Ministers will also exchange views on Sudan. The independence of the southern part of the country is approaching fast, and preparations for its recognition are made jointly. Finland emphasises the important role of the Mbeki Panel, set up by the African Union, in seeking a negotiated solution to the open questions of the peace agreement. Work must also continue on developing relations with the north.

Another topic on the Foreign Affairs Council agenda is the South Caucasus. Finland considers it important that the EU invests in the countries’ internal development of democracy and in support for rapprochement with the EU. The Foreign Ministers will also discuss the EU’s human rights policy. Finland’s objective is to increase the coherence and effectiveness of the EU’s human rights policy. In addition, the Foreign Affairs Council will review the beginning of the work of the European External Action Service.

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