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EU Foreign Affairs Council focuses on Aleppo and EU’s relations with Africa

12.12.2016 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday (12 December). Topics included Syria, relations with Africa, and the peace process in Colombia.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with his European counterparts at the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday (12 December). In view of the dramatic situation in Aleppo, consultations between EU Foreign Ministers also centred on Syria. Other points on the agenda included the European Union’s relations with Africa and a meeting with Colombian President Santos.

New attempt needed to improve the situation in Syria

Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the way to Brussels
Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the way to Brussels© Gaertner/photothek.net

The EU Foreign Ministers discussed the situation in Syria. Foreign Minister Steinmeier had previously in Paris on Saturday participated in an international meeting on Syria. “We do not have words to express the immeasurable suffering of people in Aleppo,” Steinmeier had said in Paris. He had added that “we are under a moral and legal obligation to help,” furthermore saying that, although many previous attempts to bring humanitarian aid to Aleppo had failed, these efforts must not be abandoned.

The top priority is humanitarian relief

Foreign Minister Steinmeier making a statement prior to the EU Foreign Affairs Council
Foreign Minister Steinmeier making a statement prior to the EU Foreign Affairs Council© Gaertner/photothek.net

In the morning, upon arriving in Brussels, Steinmeier said: “If an overall political solution for Syria is not achievable right now, then getting humanitarian relief to the population must be the top priority.” He went on to say that agreement must be reached on pauses in the fighting that will “hopefully lead to a ceasefire.” He also insisted that, especially considering the images and reports that have for weeks been coming out of Aleppo, those who commit crimes against humanity must be punished. The German Foreign Minister added that, after last weekend’s meeting in Paris, talks must now be continued in Geneva.

After discussing Syria with his European counterparts, Steinmeier gave the following assessment: “Regardless of how the situation in Aleppo unfolds, there will be no military solution to this conflict. Russia and Iran will have to admit this, as well.” He insisted that a return to political talks is inevitable – the sooner the better.

Focus on relations with Africa

In addition to urgent crises and conflicts, the EU Foreign Ministers also addressed strategic issues. The agenda of the EU Foreign Affairs Council included European cooperation with Africa, with a particular focus on the countries that span sub-Saharan Africa. The EU has a strong interest in stabilising this region, also in connection with its efforts to address the migration issue. In this connection, Steinmeier reported on his trips to Africa. “We have to help create alternatives for people in this region,” the German Foreign Minister said. The EU must find ways to make its aid more effective. Steinmeier also emphasised that Africa will be a major priority during Germany’s G20 Presidency (which it assumed on 1 December).

EU stands alongside Colombia as it proceeds toward peace and reconciliation

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the press conference following the EU Foreign Affairs Council
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the press conference following the EU Foreign Affairs Council© Gaertner/photothek

In the afternoon, the EU Foreign Ministers held talks with Colombian President Santos. Santos was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in connection with the peace process in Colombia. Prior to the meeting, Steinmeier said that Santos will brief EU Foreign Ministers on how Colombia plans to move toward peace and reconciliation. “He can rest assured that we in the EU will support him on this path,” Steinmeier said.

Germany is working on several levels to support this objective. Steinmeier and his counterparts will today take an additional step and jointly sign the European Union Trust Fund for Colombia, for which Germany will be making available an additional three million euros.

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