Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met his European counterparts at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on Monday (17 October). The focus of the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting was on the situation in Syria. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura had also travelled to the meeting. Further issues on the agenda included the European Union’s efforts to achieve stability in Tunisia and discussions on the EU’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy.
New attempt to improve the situation in Syria
The EU Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Syria today. US Secretary of State Kerry had held numerous talks in Lausanne at the weekend, including with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Steinmeier and Kerry spoke on the telephone on Sunday to discuss further steps and to coordinate their positions. On arrival in Luxembourg, Steinmeier said this morning that the fact that important negotiating partners on Syria had been brought together once again at the weekend was a step forwards. Talks with the participation of Russia, the US, Turkey and many Gulf states were important, he added. “This is not yet a breakthrough, however”, he said.
The German Foreign Minister emphasised that “we must make progress for the sake of the people in Aleppo who have been cut off from humanitarian support for weeks”. Achieving progress initially in the area of humanitarian assistance for the population was the very least that must be accomplished, said Steinmeier. Talks on a ceasefire for the whole of Syria and about the country’s political future were also important, he added.
After intensive discussions, the EU Foreign Ministers were finally able to agree on joint conclusions. They reached an understanding that humanitarian assistance must initially be accorded the highest priority, said Steinmeier following the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg in the late afternoon. UN Special Envoy for Syria de Mistura had previously updated the EU Foreign Ministers on the state of negotiations and the talks at the weekend. Further talks are to be held in the course of the week as negotiations were the only promising way ahead, said Steinmeier.
EU global strategy on foreign policy
A further issue on the agenda of today’s EU Foreign Affairs Council was the new Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. The key interests, values and principles that underpin the EU’s engagement around the world are presented in this strategy. At their meeting today, the EU Foreign Ministers discussed the strategy and how to implement it effectively. This new strategy was presented for the first time at the European Council on 28 June 2016.
At today’s meeting, the EU Foreign Ministers also turned their attention to Tunisia with respect to the European Union’s foreign policy efforts. The question as to how Europe can help to further stabilise the country and support its reform agenda was the principle focus of their discussions. The EU Foreign Ministers have decided today to double financial support for Tunisia in the coming year. In order to back the reform agenda in the North African country, the EU will set aside up to 300 million euros for Tunisia by 2017.
Offensive to liberate Mosul has begun
Steinmeier said today that the military offensive that was launched last night by the Iraqi army and its allies to liberate the IS stronghold of Mosul “would be a turning point in the fight against IS in Iraq, and would doubtlessly present opportunities for stabilising the Iraqi state”. Germany, he said, had therefore proposed that a so‑called “Mosul stabilisation council” be established “even now, at the beginning of the offensive”, which will start today to examine the way ahead following a possible liberation of Mosul.