Sommaire: 25 June 2012, Luxembourg - Remarks by European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton following the Foreign Affairs Council
Today we have adopted strong conclusions on Syria. As we have said many times before we need to see a peaceful transition without delay. While the main responsibility for implementing Kofi Annan's plan lies with the government, we urge all parties to refrain from violence. We condemn the unacceptable shooting down of a Turkish military plane by Syria on Friday. Syria must comply with its international obligations. We have to continue to rachet up the pressure on the Syrian regime and we want to see united action by the UN Security Council, including comprehensive sanctions under Chapter VII. Russia's engagement in support of a peaceful political process is extremely important. It is also vital that the Syrian opposition unites to work together towards a peaceful transition. That is why we hosted and financed a meeting of the opposition over the weekend in Brussels. As long as the repression continues, we will increase the pressure of sanctions on the Assad regime. Today we have added one individual and six entities to our list, bringing the total to 129 people and 49 entities.
We also recognize that yesterday was a day of truly historic significance in Egypt, where the people were able to elect their President for the first time in history. We want to congratulate Mohammed Morsi on his election, and we welcome the peaceful conduct of the elections. We have heard encouraging words from him this morning, on his intention to reach out to all Egyptians. We fully support Egypt's democratic transition. The EU Special Representative Bernardino Leon has been in the country over the past days and has met with the President just before he was appointed. We also recognise the serious challenges the country faces, socially and economically, and we are ready to help. I explained that when I last spoke with the Foreign Minister of Egypt over the weekend. Of course there is a need for social and economic reforms and we need to improve the business environment. We want to see the full handover to civilian rule as quickly as possible and an inclusive and transparent drafting process for Egypt's new constitution that must guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. We remember Tahrir Square and the people who saw that the future could be different for their country and for their people. It's now up to the President and of course to the government that will follow to ensure that that vision is realised. I wish him well.
I had the opportunity today to report back on the E3+3 talks with Iran that took place last week in Moscow. As you are aware, we agreed to hold technical talks with Iran in Istanbul on the 3rd July in the hopes that we can narrow the substantial gap that currently exists between the two sides by dealing with the technical issues. We are determined to try and achieve a negotiated agreement with Iran to reassure the international community about the purely peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. The choice is Iran's. It is now up to Iran to decide what it wishes to do. We continue our twin-track approach - the sanctions that have been agreed will be implemented from 1st July. An embargo on Iranian oil exports.
I also want to report how pleased I am that the Council today adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy with an Action Plan for putting it into practice. It's the first time that the EU has had a unified framework for this extremely important policy. To complement the package and see it implemented I have also proposed the appointment of an EU Special Representative on Human Rights. I will be interviewing the candidates soon and look forward to a swift appointment. In the debate we had on human rights we focused on a number of areas. Let me pick up specifically two. The importance of the rights of women and girls in every society and the importance of freedom of religion and belief: in that context we are very concerned about events currently taking place in Nigeria.
We also held a timely debate on developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We encouraged the leadership there to translate into concrete actions their commitment towards the EU. There was a good momentum at the beginning of the year and the current political difficulties should not hamper it - it is crucial that they achieve progress in 2012. In that context we look forward to the High-Level Dialogue on the Accession Process on 27 June, which Stefan Fule will host in Brussels. The focus of the meeting will be to explain the need for internal coordination in BiH on EU affairs at all levels of government. I hope I will be able to welcome the participants at the meeting myself.
Finally I have briefed the Council on my recent trip to Pakistan, where we launched the Strategic Dialogue under the 5-year Engagement Plan.