Category Archives: International

EU message to Taliban

Brussels 21.07.2021 “The EU supports an inclusive, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process leading to a negotiated political settlement” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell writes concluding his visit to Central Asia.

“This requires the Taliban to commit to a negotiated settlement. For this to happen, all concerned – neighbouring countries, the EU and all international partners – have to be clear and frank in our messages to the Taliban. We must spell out the consequences of their chosen course of action, including for the EU’s engagement” the diplomat continues.

“A military takeover by the Taliban, or attempts to restore an Islamic Emirate are unacceptable – to a majority of Afghans, to the countries in the region and to the international community. It would lead to non-recognition and isolation. Future support to Afghanistan by its international partners, including the EU, is and will remain conditional on the preservation of the democratic progress of the last twenty years. This includes the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, including the rights of women and the protection of minorities, as well as the strengthening of state institutions and the fight against corruption”.

On July 21 The Taliban said they would fight only to defend themselves over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, but stopped short of declaring a formal ceasefire. The militants are waging offensives across the country, expanding their control, seizing border crossings and encircling cities, with the withdrawal of foreign troops all but complete.

“I can confirm we are in defence status during Eid,” a spokesman for the Taliban told AFP, without delivering further information.

Eid al-Adha is one of the biggest festivals on the Muslim calendar, and sees livestock sacrificed to share the meals with the less privileged. In Afghanistan, celebrations started this Monday, July 19 and will run to the end of Friday, July 23.

Varosha: EU response to Turkey announcement

Brussels 20.07.2021 “The High Representative of the European Union expresses his deep concern over the announcements made by President Erdoğan and Mr. Tatar on 20 July 2021, with respect to the fenced-off area of Varosha, which constitutes an unacceptable unilateral decision to change the status of Varosha” reads the announcement of the European External Action Service.

“The EU continues to be guided by the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions with respect to Varosha, which must be respected in full — including Resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992). No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those Resolutions. The EU continues to hold the Government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha. The EU will follow tomorrow’s closed consultation of the UN Security Council on Cyprus closely and decide on next steps accordingly.

“The EU once again underlines the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with UN Security Council Resolutions.

“The EU calls for the immediate end to restrictions on the freedom of movement of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) imposed in the Varosha area, so that the mission may patrol and implement its mandated activities.

“The EU remains fully committed to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded and expects the same of Turkey”.

EU-Israel constructive exchange

Brussels 12.07.2021 “We had a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid. You know that the European Union and Israel share deep political, historical and cultural ties” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said at the press-conference in Brussels, concluding the EU Council of Foreign ministers.

“We had a friendly, open and constructive exchange on our bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the region – especially related to the [Middle East] Peace Process and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] negotiations”.

“The fact that [Foreign] Minister Lapid decided to follow up on my invitation to attend todays’ meeting, and with this to allow for an exchange with the new administration, shows that we have a chance for a fresh start and for strengthening our bilateral relations. But, these bilateral relations are also conditioned to many issues in which we have differences. And the proof is that the Association Agreement meetings have been cancelled since 2012, [as far as] I remember. It is quite a long time, almost 10 years”.

“We discussed also the Middle East Peace Process. Here I want to stress very clearly that Israel’s security is non-negotiable. We stand firmly for Israel’s security and condemn terrorism, but at the same time, we expect Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict. To find a solution with the Palestinians can only contribute to Israel’s security and we have a Foreign Minister from Israel that has publicly been advocating in favour of the ‘two-state solution’ – which is the solution that we, European Union, are strongly supporting”.

“A credible engagement, a stronger relationship with Israel needs to revive a path towards peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians both alike. We remain ready and willing to support both in the efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process. We know that this is not going to be for tomorrow, we know the special composition of the Israeli government, but we have been very interested in listening the explanations of the Foreign Minister and his good will in order to improve the everyday life of the Palestinians and to advance in cooperation and working together towards resuming the holding of Association Council meetings if the conditions are met”.

“For this, we need, on one hand, to reach a consensus among Member States and, on the other hand, Israel has also to do its part”.

Borrell concludes EU DIPLOMATS Council

Brussels 12.07.2021 “We started today’s Foreign Affairs Council with a discussion on the external and geopolitical impact of the new digital technologies. These technologies are crucial for our societies and economies. They are becoming an object and a driver of geopolitical competition and global influence. Certainly, global actors are using these new technologies to manipulate the information environment, to influence our public debates and to interfere in our democratic processes” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, concluding the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

As European Union, we need to use our unique capacity as regulatory power, setting global norms and standards to maintain an open system, centred on the rule of law. We want to work together with partners from the United States to the Indo-Pacific, Africa and Latin America.

We agreed with the European External Action Service and the European Commission to continue our work on structuring a coherent digital external policy. For sure, in the months to come we are going to go back to this very much important issue and in order to be prepared for that, at the European External Action Service, we have created a new division to deal with the connectivity and digital transformation issues.

Also, for the first time, the Foreign Ministers discussed the Strategic Compass. It is something that the Ministers of Defence have been involved in on several occasions and will continue being involved in the next informal meeting in September, but today the Foreign Ministers – at their request – have been involved in the discussion about: how to better prepare for future crises; how to reinforce our resilience against threats, for example in the cyber space; how to reinforce our partnerships to meet common challenges; and how to develop a common strategic culture.

I presented to the Ministers the schedule in order to be able, by November, to present a first draft and, by March [next year], to adopt the Strategic Compass. I think that it is a very important initiative. I do not care if it is controversial, I prefer to have controversies [rather] than indifferences and I think that the Foreign Ministers took stock of the importance of this project. Let us hope that by November the Ministers will have a full draft of the Strategic Compass.

Talking about defence and security issues, today we formally established, in a record time, the new European Training Mission for Mozambique. This is the second Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission that is being created during my mandate.

It has been done in a record time, in European terms ‘record time’ does not mean very quickly, but it has been done quicker than in any other mission.

The new mission will be a fundamental part of our response to the government of Mozambique’s request to address the crisis in Cabo Delgado, in the northern part of the country, and to contribute to reinforce and re-establish security.

This mission will train selected Mozambican units to help the armed forces in their efforts to bring back safety and security. This commitment now needs to be properly resourced and accompanied by the adequate assistance measures. So, I have been asking the Member States, once the mission has been agreed, to bring, to provide the means, the staff that this mission will require. It is not going to be a big mission, like the one that we have in Mali, but it is important that the people who will go to Mozambique to train Mozambican units will be highly qualified military elements.

We had a discussion over lunch with the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid. You know that the European Union and Israel share deep political, historical and cultural ties.

We had a friendly, open and constructive exchange on our bilateral relations, but also on the situation in the region – especially related to the [Middle East] Peace Process and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal] negotiations.

The fact that [Foreign] Minister Lapid decided to follow up on my invitation to attend todays’ meeting, and with this to allow for an exchange with the new administration, shows that we have a chance for a fresh start and for strengthening our bilateral relations. But, these bilateral relations are also conditioned to many issues in which we have differences. And the proof is that the Association Agreement meetings have been cancelled since 2012, [as far as] I remember. It is quite a long time, almost 10 years.

We discussed also the Middle East Peace Process. Here I want to stress very clearly that Israel’s security is non-negotiable. We stand firmly for Israel’s security and condemn terrorism, but at the same time, we expect Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict. To find a solution with the Palestinians can only contribute to Israel’s security and we have a Foreign Minister from Israel that has publicly been advocating in favour of the ‘two-state solution’ – which is the solution that we, European Union, are strongly supporting.

A credible engagement, a stronger relationship with Israel needs to revive a path towards peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians both alike. We remain ready and willing to support both in the efforts to rebuild a meaningful political process. We know that this is not going to be for tomorrow, we know the special composition of the Israeli government, but we have been very interested in listening the explanations of the Foreign Minister and his good will in order to improve the everyday life of the Palestinians and to advance in cooperation and working together towards resuming the holding of Association Council meetings if the conditions are met.

For this, we need, on one hand, to reach a consensus among Member States and, on the other hand, Israel has also to do its part.

After a long discussion with the Foreign Affairs Minister of the new Israeli government, we went to the discussion on Ethiopia.

You know that the situation in the Tigray region has never been as bad, despite of the ceasefire announced by the government of Ethiopia. What we are seeing in Tigray, what we are afraid Trigay is going to suffer, is a serious humanitarian crisis, with almost 1 million [people] – 850,000 [people] at risk of famine, and ongoing use of violence against civilians and rape as a weapon of war. The ceasefire is a positive step, but what is happening today is that the Tigray region is being cut-off from the rest of the world by destroying critical infrastructure of transportation, and this, as I said, could bring to the region the risk of mass famine.

We, at the European Union, the Commission, will organise an [humanitarian] air bridge to try to bring support to the region, but you can imagine that we cannot solve the problem of a famine affecting 850,000 people. It is something that is out of our capability, it will require the mobilisation – for this almost 1 million people, 850,000 people – of the United Nations agencies, and to ensure humanitarian access. We are ready to support the population, but we call on the Member States to provide donations as a clear sign of European Union solidarity.

[We should focus on these priorities:] To consolidate the ceasefire, the withdrawal of foreign forces from Ethiopian territory. To stop Human Rights violations. And to launch a reconciliation and national dialogue in order to preserve the integrity and political unity of Ethiopia, which remains a clear strategic objective.

Finally, we should be ready to use restrictive measures where we believe they are justified and necessary in advancing these goals. I believe that the situation in Ethiopia would certainly require that we consider this possibility along all options at our disposal. This option, the option of restrictive measures – to my understanding – must be on the table.

With ministers, we also addressed the situation in Afghanistan. The fighting is having a grave impact on civilians. The number of civilian casualties has grown 23% in the first semester of this year. We condemn the increasing targeted attacks against the Hazara community and other religious and ethnic groups.

The Ministers have unanimously urged the Taliban to engage in substantive and inclusive peace negotiations. We also call on countries of the region and the broader international community to play a constructive role in support of the Afghan peace process. I will be reaching out to many of the regional actors in the conference I will be attending in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan(link is external), in the coming days, where we expect the attendance of the President of Afghanistan.

On Lebanon, it seems to me that Europeans are more concerned with the search for a political solution to the country than the Lebanese politicians themselves, which is quite strange. After my visit to Lebanon, the political stalemate persists, the economy is imploding and the suffering of the people of Lebanon is continuously growing. They need to have a Lebanese government in order to avoid a crackdown of the country, fully able to implement the reforms and protect its population. This is in the interest of the Lebanese people, from all confessions and political orientations.

The Ministers reached a political understanding that a sanctions regime against those who are responsible for the situation should be established. In light of the preparatory technical work, the legal acts will be worked on and a decision will be adopted by the Council in order to create this new sanctions regime without delay. I can say that the objective is to complete this by the end of the month. I am not talking about the implementation of the regime, just the building of the regime according with sound legal basis.

On Belarus, the repression by the regime continues. Over the last few weeks, we have seen large-scale bulldozing of the independent media.

We have expressed our full solidarity with Lithuania on the expulsion of their diplomatic staff. We are following closely the situation at the Lithuania-Belarus border, where there are reports that the regime is now sending migrants to the Polish border too.

We call on Belarusian authorities to stick to their international commitments and obligations. We took already a number of restrictive measures and we are ready to consider further response to this behaviour. To use migrants as a weapon, pushing people to the borders is unacceptable and that is what is happening in the Lithuanian and Polish borders.

Finally, Cyprus. We are concerned about developments on the ground in Varosha. The European Union, through the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] and the President of the European Council [Charles Michel] has repeatedly reaffirmed the status of Varosha and called for the Turkish authorities not to create a situation, which could be against the United Nations decisions. The status of Varosha is set out in relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and it is important, as the two Presidents have directly addressed to the highest authorities in Turkey, to refrain from provocative actions.

Our priority is to focus on getting the Cyprus settlement talks [to restart], that is what we are working on, trying to avoid any kind of trouble, trying to avoid to get trapped in a negative spiral again. Our wish is to work on the settlement of the Cyprus issue. The Ministers today also rejected the two-state solution in Cyprus and on that we are firmly united. Let us hope that we are not going to have, on the following days, reasons for the calling of an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council”.

NATO receives ISRAEL Foreign Minister Lapid

Brussels 12.07.2021 Today NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met at NATO Headquarters with H.E. Yair Lapid, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Alternate Prime Minister of Israel. They discussed a range of issues related to NATO-Israel relations.

The Secretary General said that Israel is one of NATO’s most engaged and capable partners, and he pointed out that exchanges at the staff-to-staff and expert-level have continued, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Israel has been an important partner to NATO for more than 20 years, as well as an active member of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. NATO and Israel cooperate in different domains, including science and technology, civil emergencies preparedness and management, resilience, counter-terrorism, military medicine, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and women, peace and security.

Secretary General Stoltenberg and Minister Lapid also shared views on the prospects for potential cooperation between NATO and Israel in other areas of shared interest, including climate change, defence innovation, and emerging and disruptive technologies. He also restressed Allies’ continued calls on Iran to uphold and fully implement all its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and its safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and refrain from all activities which are inconsistent with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231.

EU: Belarus human rights violations

Brussels 07.06.2021 “Viktar Babaryka was sentenced to 14 years in prison today. He had been held in detention since 18 June 2020, for the sole reason to have tried to exercise his political right to stand as a candidate in the presidential elections in August 2020” reads the statement by the spokesperson on sentencing Viktar Babaryka and other political trials.

“This sentence is one of at least 125 unfair and arbitrary recent verdicts by Belarusian courts in politically motivated trials, often held behind closed doors and without due process of law.

“Today, Belarus has over 530 political prisoners, hundreds of documented instances of torture, and continued repression against all segments of society to silence all dissent and ill treatment in detention centres. The Lukashenko regime clearly violates international human rights that it has committed to uphold. This has been most recently confirmed also by the UN Special Rapporteur on Belarus.

“The EU demands the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Babaryka as well as of all political prisoners, detained journalists and people who are behind bars for exercising their fundamental rights. The regime must halt repression and injustice and hold perpetrators to account.

“The EU will continue its efforts to push for accountability for the brutal repression by the Belarusian authorities. The EU also continues to call for a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue with representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society, facilitated by the OSCE, leading to new free and fair elections.

“Serious human rights violations come at a price. Since last October, the EU has progressively imposed restrictive measures in response to the continued intimidation and violent repression of peaceful protesters, opposition members and journalists. In line with its gradual approach, the EU stands ready to consider further measures”.

EU-Central Asia Security Dialogue

Brussels 01.07.2021 The eighth High-Level Political and Security Dialogue between the European Union and the countries of Central Asia – Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – took place on Thursday, July 1, in Tashkent, with the participation of Afghanistan as special guest.

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss regional dynamics and advance region-to-region cooperation on a broad spectrum of issues, including border management, security and the promotion of sustainable connectivity.

The EU welcomed the upcoming conference on Central Asia-South Asia connectivity to be held on 15-16 July in Tashkent, which would provide space for reiterating international support to initiatives aimed at linking up Central Asian states, Afghanistan and their neighbours more closely as a key factor for peace, resilience and prosperity.

Participants expressed their shared concern about resurging violence in Afghanistan and stressed their common determination to continue to work together to promote a genuine and inclusive peace process in the country.

The EU confirmed that the key priorities of its strategy on Central Asia of 2019 would guide the programming of its aid for the budget cycle 2021-2027.

Participants agreed to work together to organise a first EU-Central Asia Economic Forum, EU-Central Asia Conference on Tourism and third EU-Central Asia Civil Society Forum by the end of this year. The EU welcomed the proposal to organise a high-level conference on Connectivity in 2022.

The Dialogue was chaired by EEAS Deputy Secretary-General for political affairs Enrique Mora.

EU committed to defeat Da’esh

Brussels 28.06.2021 “The EU remains firmly committed to the Global Coalition against Da’esh. The job is not yet finished in Iraq and Syria, where the core of Da’esh is still active, even if gone largely underground. Stabilisation and reconstruction are key to prevent its resurgence. We also see a growing influence of Da’esh in areas already made vulnerable by conflict, including West Africa and Mozambique. The pandemic and its impact on local economies are also creating new opportunities for Da’esh to exploit” the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, while addressing in Rome the ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition against Da’esh.

“This is why our collective action remains crucial to ensure sustainable progress” the diplomat continued.

“In Iraq, the EU has invested over €1.3 billion since 2014 in development, humanitarian and security assistance. Since 2017, we support civilian Security Sector Reform through an EU Advisory Mission (EUAM Iraq), with a team of up to 80 international staff. The mission works very closely with the Ministry of the Interior and will soon extend its presence also to Erbil.

“When I met with Foreign Minister [of Iraq, Fuad] Hussein last week, I also announced the deployment of an EU Election Observation Mission for the October elections.

“On Syria, we continue to push for a political solution in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We insist on the importance of non-normalisation with Syria in order to maintain pressure on the regime to engage in the UN process. In March, the EU co-chaired the 5th Syria Conference in Brussels to mobilise the international community in support of the Syrian people.

“The EU also supports the stabilisation of the North East with projects to build resilience against radicalisation, prevent violent extremism, and in support of vulnerable children and youth.

[The humanitarian and security conditions in the camps remain difficult. The EU visited the region last week and will launch new stabilisation assistance, including for camps and prisons.]

“Turning to Africa, I warmly welcome the new Coalition members from the African continent who join us for the first time today.

“In Sahel, we have to pay closer attention to the region: in Central Mali we see every day two grave security incidents causing deaths or injuries. This is of concern to all of us. For this reason, the EU is committed to keep up its military and civilian engagement. We have three [Common Security and Defence Policy] CSDP missions in the region, with around 1,000 staff to support host countries in the fight against terrorism. The EU also supports the G5 Sahel Joint Force and stabilisation efforts in support of local populations.

We again welcome a role for the Coalition in the Sahel region. A role that has to be played in close coordination with international efforts in the framework of the Coalition for the Sahel.

Finally, on Mozambique. The humanitarian and security situation in Cabo Delgado is rapidly deteriorating. At the request of the Mozambican government, the EU is finalising the planning for an EU military CSDP mission aimed at providing human-rights compliant training and capacity building to selected units of the Mozambican armed forces.

The EU is further engaged with humanitarian, development and stabilisation assistance adding up to nearly €60 million for projects to build confidence between security forces and local communities.

“Two years after the defeat of Da’esh by Coalition forces in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that there is still much work to do. The EU will continue to do its part, together with the Global Coalition and its partners”.

EU diplomats visit South Caucasus

Brussels 23.06.2021 “On 25-26 June, Alexander Schallenberg, Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania will visit Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as mandated by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Polic Josep Borrell” reads the press-release of the European External Action Service on visit of Foreign Affairs Ministers of Austria, Lithuania and Romania to South Caucasus mandated by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell mandated by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell. (Image above: Bakou, Azerbaijan, Flame Towers).

The visit on behalf of the High Representative will highlight the importance that the European Union attaches to its bilateral relations with these countries, to the South Caucasus region, and to the EU’s Eastern Partnership framework. The visit signals the EU’s readiness to support broader cooperation both with and between the South Caucasus countries, including through the opportunities available under the Eastern Partnership. Following the recent discussions among EU Foreign Affairs Ministers at the informal Foreign Affairs Council (Gymnich) on the conflicts in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood, the visit will underscore the EU’s determination to promote and actively support sustainable and comprehensive conflict settlement efforts.

The Ministers will meet with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in Baku, the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, and Acting Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, in Yerevan, as well as the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, in Tbilisi. The visit will convey the EU’s support to the three countries also in the context of the preparation for the Eastern Partnership summit, which is scheduled to take place in December 2021.

“The Ministers will hold a press conference at the end of their visit, at the EU Delegation in Tblisi, on Saturday 26 June at around 13:00 (CEST) / 15:00 local.

“The Ministers will be accompanied by the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar. They will report about their visit to EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs during the next Foreign Affairs Council in July.

“Audiovisual coverage of the visit will be provided by the European Union Delegations to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia respectively”.

EU on Apple Daily’s Hong Kong operations

Brussels 23.06.2021 “The closure of Apple Daily’s Hong Kong (pictured) operations clearly shows how the National Security Law imposed by Beijing is being used to stifle freedom of the press and the free expression of opinions. Its closing seriously undermines media freedom and pluralism, which are essential for any open and free society. The erosion of press freedom is also counter to Hong Kong’s aspirations as an international business hub” reads the statement of Statement by the European External Action Service Spokesperson.

“The European Union recalls that these freedoms are enshrined in the Basic Law, and that China made international commitments under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press. All rights enshrined in the Basic Law under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle should be fully protected and restored”.

Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy paper Apple Daily has announced its closure, in a serious blow to the freedom of press.

The publication’s offices were raided last week over allegations that several reports published recently had breached a controversial national security law.

Company-linked assets worth HK$18m ($2.3m; £1.64m) were later frozen. Police also detained its chief editor and five other executives. The tabloid has been critical of the Hong Kong and Chinese leadership.
Its founder Jimmy Lai is already in jail on a number of charges.

The paper’s management said that “in view of staff members’ safety”, it had decided “to cease operation immediately after midnight” – making Thursday’s publication the final printed edition.

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