Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled to Brussels on Monday (16 March) for the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting. Steinmeier also joined other European partners for talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in the context of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The main focus of the March Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels was the joint engagement of the European Union (EU) and its member states in Africa. Right at the start of the EU meeting Steinmeier emphasised that Africa was no longer the continent of crises and conflicts by any means. The German Foreign Minister stressed that given the “quite amazing economic development in individual countries”, Europe’s view of Africa must change. He said the goal must be to support Africa along its own path, for example, within the context of the African Union.
Libya: support for UN mediation
The EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the situation in Libya as well as an EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq. With regard to the escalating situation in Libya, Steinmeier said that there was “a little spark” of hope that they could “perhaps still manage to bring together the various parties and rivalling groups”. He added that they had to find a way “to prevent the division of Libya and further violence”. To this end he reported that UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon had commenced talks with the conflicting parties.
During their discussions the EU Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their support for the UN-led talks. They also agreed to provide additional support for Libya as soon as a consensus on a government of national unity and security measures has been reached.
Hope for Ukraine
During the talks on the fringes of the Foreign Affairs Council, the stabilisation of the ceasefire in Ukraine also played a central role. Later, during a press conference in Brussels, Steinmeier appealed to all parties to abide by the peace plan adopted in Minsk. He explained: “I believe that it is worth continuing to work on implementing the Minsk agreements, and I hope that everyone shares and continues to share this view of the situation.” He said that the ceasefire was “largely” being observed and the heavy weapons had “largely” been withdrawn. He went on to say that the situation had also improved for the OSCE observers, who had now been granted access “to more of the still disputed zones” by the conflict parties.
Nuclear negotiations with Iran
After the Foreign Affairs Council meeting, the German Foreign Minister still had two other appointments in his busy schedule. First he visited Carnegie Europe to talk about the review of German foreign policy and Germany’s role in Europe.
He then joined his French and British opposite numbers, Laurent Fabius and Philip Hammond, as well as EU High Representative Federica Mogherini for talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The talks centred on the difficult task of making progress in the nuclear negotiations with Iran.