Foreign Affairs Council
THE MINISTER – I’d like to highlight three essential points from this Council meeting.
First, Syria. We were unanimous in regretting that the Security Council was unable to take a decision on Syria, given the outburst of violence and ever more brutal crackdown. We therefore concluded that the European Union had to continue on its chosen path, i.e. strengthening sanctions even further. We’ve also got to make contact with the Syrian opposition and step up our dialogue with Turkey and the Arab countries in the region to try and make headway on the situation.
PALESTINIANS/UN OBSERVER STATUS/ICC
The second point we discussed was the situation in the Middle East.
We all congratulated Catherine Ashton on the good job she did in New York. As regards the Quartet statement, I pointed out that it hasn’t, for the time being, led to the negotiations being resumed. We have to go on exploring in the General Assembly the possibility of a resolution, which would of course be balanced, acknowledging observer state status for the Palestinian Authority, but with the Palestinians pledging to recognize the State of Israel – which, incidentally, they’ve already done –, guarantee security, resume the negotiations and give up the idea of going to the International Criminal Court while these are ongoing.
This is a balanced package. We’ve mandated Mrs Ashton to continue working on this, even though some states have significant reservations about this possibility. We’re seeing two tendencies emerge within the 27. A great deal of energy will be needed to maintain unity between the various European Union member states.
We also talked about Iran; we’re ready to resume talks, as long as Iran genuinely agrees to cooperate. We also expressed our concern about the human rights situation. We’ve seen that an Iranian actress has just been sentenced to several years in prison and 80 lashes; this is obviously intolerable. The human rights situation in Iran is also an issue of concern to the European Union, and one for it to act on.
Q. – On Syria, are you now making contact with the opposition?
THE MINISTER – We’ve already had contacts, which are building up. So we have to talk to them to try and make progress and maintain dialogue.
Q. – Do you see a connection between these contacts being established and the modus operandi with the NTC in Libya?
THE MINISTER – Not exactly; the Syrian National Council doesn’t yet have the same structure the National Transitional Council had; so we aren’t at the recognition stage. However, I think we have to get to know its representatives better, get a better idea of their intentions for the Syria of tomorrow and talk to them.
Q. – Did you manage to convince the Germans that Serbia should receive candidate status?
THE MINISTER – We’re still talking about it, we’re discussing it. We didn’t talk about it this morning.
Q. – A word on Cairo?
THE MINISTER – We expressed our strong concern about the explosion of violence in Cairo and repeated that protecting minorities was a red line for us – respecting religious minorities: Christians of course, but also every religious minority in the states of the region./.