Good afternoon or evening to all of you. Thank you for following this press point.
Today we have had an important Foreign Affairs Council with a video conference with the Secretary of State of the United States, Mike Pompeo.
The main point of the agenda was this: transatlantic relations.
We engaged in a strategic dialogue with Mike Pompeo on our relations and on the key foreign policy issues both for the European Union and the United States.
As you know - and it is unnecessary to stress it, but let me do it - the transatlantic partnership is one of the key pillars of the world order and today’s video meeting reaffirmed the commitment of the European Union Member States to continue this close transatlantic cooperation. Maybe we do not agree on everything, but our commitment to transatlantic cooperation is as strong as ever.
We focused on three main issues: China, the Peace Process in the Middle East, and the Eastern neighbourhood, with an emphasis on Ukraine. And we discussed as a cross-cutting issue, the problem of disinformation, which is affecting the three of them – and mainly the ones related to the Eastern neighbourhood and China.
We also talked about the coronavirus pandemic.
We underlined that there is currently no better example of the need for international cooperation than this health crisis. That is why we have regretted the United States’ announcement that they intend to withdraw from the World Health Organization. We expect that this decision could be reconsidered, because global problems need global solutions and multilateral tools. Multilateral cooperation is more needed than ever. It is in big demand and short supply.
We exchanged views on China and its growing assertiveness on many fronts. There are issues that we face together in the relationship with China and where our close cooperation is very important to address them jointly. This includes, for sure, the situation in Hong Kong.
I suggested to launch a distinct, bilateral dialogue focussing on China and the challenges its actions and ambitions mean for us - the United States and the European Union.
On the Middle East Peace Process, we made it clear that it is important to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in a credible and meaningful political process.
We recognise that the United States’ plan created a certain momentum about a political process that had stopped for too long, and this momentum can be used to start joint international efforts on the basis of existing internationally-agreed parameters. We, from the European Union, stand ready to help and to facilitate such a process.
We were also clear about the consequences of a possible annexation for the prospects of a two-state solution, but also for regional stability. On that I think that many Member States were very clear about it.
On the Eastern Neighbourhood, which was the third pillar of our conversation today, we confirmed that the strong European Union-United States partnership will remain crucial – particularly on Ukraine.
Of course, we still need Russia to do its part in the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, and our position remains clear and unchanged.
Some Member States also raised the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, where we are increasingly concerned about the recent escalations from Turkey. We agreed on the need for de-escalation and to return to a true partnership. There have been some incidents during the last days around Operation Irini. We are aware of that and tomorrow we will talk about it in the Council of Defence Ministers.
I also recalled that we are organising the Brussels Syria Conference [Supporting the future of Syria and the region – Brussels conference] on the 30th of June. It will be the fourth time that we do that, and I asked for the United States’ participation.
Finally, disinformation – this is a shared challenge. External disinformation actors are targeting both of us and we agreed to look at ways to reinforce our partnership in responding to this growing problem. Truth has to prevail. Democracy is a system that works on the basis of free and fair information. If citizens do not have access to free information or if citizens are poisoned with fake news, then their participation in democratic processes can be jeopardised.
This is a brief outline of what we have been discussing during this three-hour meeting. Now I am at your disposal to take some questions.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-191991