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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Josep Borrell: we are currently working on strengthening our relations with Armenia


Tue 12 Dec 2023 | 11:46 AM
Josep Borrell
Josep Borrell
Basant Ahmed

  Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said: "It has been a long day, and it is still not finished because immediately after this press conference, we are going to have the Ministerial Meeting with the Eastern Partnership. "

" We started the day with informal exchanges with Foreign Minister of Armenia, Mr [Ararat] Mirzoyan. "

He added :" You know that we are currently working on strengthening our relations with Armenia. "

I see that Armenia clearly sees the benefits of increasing cooperation with us, and we are ready to respond positively.   

As a first step of this increasing cooperation, today the Foreign Affairs Council agreed to strengthen our civilian [CSDP] mission in Armenia (EUMA), increasing our presence on the ground from 138 staff to 209. This is an important increase of the size of the mission, and this is a way of increasing the stability of Armenia’s international border with Azerbaijan.  

We believe that there is a historic chance to achieve peace in the region. It is an opportunity. We are committed to continue our support to these efforts – by working together with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The fact that we have decided to increase by such an important number our staff on this mission shows our clear commitment to the stability in the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan and [is] an important contribution to the peace efforts. 

At the Council, we focused – as every time, since two years – on the way to help Ukraine in winning its war of defence against Russia’s aggression.  

This time, Minister [for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro] Kuleba was with us in person and debriefed on the latest developments.  

Ukraine is pushing on two fronts. 

The military one, and in the military front, Russia is regrouping, mobilising more troops, receiving and producing more military equipment. And we have to support Ukraine in facing that. 

And the other front is the accession path, where important reforms have been delivered by Ukraine and where European Union leaders must take important decisions this week.  

Ukrainians are fighting on the battlefield and Ukrainians are working a lot in order to continue doing reforms, in order to deliver and continue on the European Union path.  

Let’s move in detail to the military side. Ahead of the winter and to underline his renewed presidential candidature - because you know they are also calling for elections in Russia - Putin tries to create a new momentum in his war against Ukraine. 

Last night, Russia launched its first ballistic missiles attack on Kyiv in more than two months. There had been a pause, but now, they came back attacking Kyiv with missiles. They continue targeting civilians, infrastructure – export infrastructure – and we must do everything to avoid that Putin’s Russia can prevail and [we] must continue supporting Ukraine.  

We have already launched a dialogue and expert consultations with Ukraine on future security commitments.  

We have to provide operational military support, yes. But we have also to work on a predictable long-term funding.  

Today, at the meeting, an overwhelming majority of Ministers was very clear: this is not the moment to weaken our support to Ukraine. On the contrary, this is the moment to increase [it] and speed it up.  

This is not the moment to weaken. It is the moment to continuously, stubbornly supporting Ukraine, increasing the support.  

To do that, we need to remain united. We need to strengthen our defence industry, to help Ukraine to boost their own defence industry. We need to agree on the 8th European Peace Facility package – which is still pending - and we need to get a new European Peace Facility top-up of €5 billion.  

I expect the Leaders of the European Union to give guidance on these important decisions later this week.  

I informed the Ministers also on finalising the proposals on revenues from immobilised assets. This proposal will be submitted to the Member States tomorrow. Because there is a Council decision, that I address to the Council, and also, together with the European Commission, a Council regulation that will be presented to the College. But keep in mind that these are proposals that have to be approved by the Council.  

The Ministers discussed everything related to Ukraine, and they stressed that our future security and stability depends critically on the way Ukraine is defending itself. 

Then, we went to the discussion on Gaza and Israel. 

I submitted an options paper on the stabilisation of Gaza for the “day after”. This options paper was very well received by the Ministers. 

We discussed about the catastrophic – apocalyptical, I would say - situation of civilians in Gaza following the terrorist attacks on the 7th of October and the military answer of Israel, with an incredible amount of civilian casualties.  

I think the human suffering constitutes an unprecedented challenge to the international community. Civilian casualties are between 60% and 70% of the overall deaths. 60% to 70% of the deaths are civilians. According to the Health Ministry of Gaza, the number of victims is about 18,000 – for sure more, because nobody knows how many are under the rubbles. 85% of the population is internally displaced – it means around 1.9 million people.  

And what I am saying about the rubbles reminds of the importance of the destruction of buildings in Gaza which is more or less – or even greater – than the destruction suffered by the German cities during the Second World War. Just in order to have an idea of the humanitarian situation that the United Nations have been denouncing in the last days. 

This is in Gaza. But we are also alarmed by the violence in the West Bank by extremist settlers. We are also alarmed by the fact that the Israeli government has approved the construction of another 1,700 housing units in East Jerusalem to expand the settlements – which we consider illegal under international law. We condemn this decision, and we will prepare a statement fixing the position about it. 

Against this background, we reaffirmed that our financial support to the Palestinian Authority must continue.  

Ministers made very clear to the [European] Commission that our annual funding to the Palestinian Authority shall be released swiftly, following the review of European Union’s assistance, which found no evidence nor breach of European Union rules, nor any kind of signal that this money could be funding terrorism or fuelling hatred and antisemitism. And in the next days, we got assurances from the [European] Commission that this support will be released.  

Then, I proposed to the Foreign Affairs Council a certain number of elements to guide our action – that I think could be or has been supported by a strong majority of the Member States. 

First, no forced displacement of the civilian population of Gaza, nor occupation of the Strip by Israel.  

Continue acting against Hamas, including restrictive measures.  

We will work on imposing sanctions against extremist settlers in the West Bank. I will make a proposal to Member States in this regard, following the example of the United States, and using our general framework to defend human rights.  

We are working on this proposal that will be submitted to Member States.  

We will also see how our missions on the ground – remember that we have two missions; one police mission in Ramallah (EUPOL COPPS) to support the Palestinian Authority’s judiciary and police; and another, EUBAM Rafah, our border assistance mission – how can contribute to the efforts to stabilise the occupied [Palestinian] Territory.  

Finally, together with our Special Representative for the Middle East Process [Sven Koopmans], we will work on proposals on how to pursue the political initiative for ensuring governance in Gaza and working on the two-state solution. We will have to be fully engaged in looking for this two-state solution, that the whole international community is asking for and for the time being, the Israeli government is refusing. 

We will work on proposing initiatives in order to make this solution a reality. Knowing how difficult it can be, we believe it is the best - if not the only solution - to give security and peace both to Israel and Palestine. The security of Israel cannot be reached just by military means, it requires a political settlement of the conflict.  

Finally, we discussed about the Sahel, where we face unprecedented challenges. We took note of the results of the ECOWAS Summit that took place yesterday and we will continue supporting ECOWAS’ mediation efforts. 

We know that the situation on the ground is deteriorating in terms of security and governance. The military juntas are strengthening their hold on power, restricting freedoms, dismantling the democratic institutions and getting closer to Russia.