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Donald Trump said last week that he wants Iran to call him and even signalled that that was to do with the nuclear deal. Did Mike Pompeo [Secretary of State of the United States] ask you to reach out to the Iranians and to back the appeal that they get on the phone to him and come back to the negotiating table? Is it your position that the Iranians should call him and ask for talks to start over again?
That was not a request I heard during this meeting. As European Union, as you know, we always encourage dialogue and diplomatic engagement. It has always been our commitment and this is what we are practicing, including with Iran. We would always back any chance for talks. It is always better to talk than not to talk. Especially when tensions arise it is a good idea.
Having said that, Mike Pompeo heard very clearly from us today, not only from myself, but also from the other EU Member States' Ministers, that we are living in a crucial and delicate moment, where the most relevant and responsible attitude to take is - and we believe should be - that of maximal restrain and avoiding any escalation on the military side.
On the other side, as I have had the chance to say in the last days, we still invite Iran to comply with all its nuclear commitments, and we will do our part on our side to continue to fully implement the nuclear deal [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA].
You know that today we had a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and the UK, chaired by myself, where we discussed the ways in which we can further advance, for instance, on the operationalisation of INSTEX, to hopefully have the first transactions in the next few weeks.
There is a full determination on the European Union side - and all the Member States also expressed this today very clearly - to continue implementing in full the nuclear deal with Iran [JCPOA].
In the conclusions about the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership there is no mention of European aspirations of those Eastern partner countries, unlike the formulation that is in the association agreements with three countries [Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine]. How can this be combined with your own words that the EU “values enormously” this partnership?
On the first question, you have seen the Chair's conclusion, the summary of the works. It is an anniversary, it is a celebration that is aimed at highlighting all the positive steps we have taken and we have managed to achieve in these last ten years in concrete term. So, it is focusing more on what we have achieved already and the meaning and importance of our partnership for our people and less on the future perspectives.
You know that we have the 20 deliverables for 2020 still to be implemented. 2020 is around the corner, so our focus is there. Obviously, any further discussion on future perspectives will most likely be taken in the future institutional cycle in the European Union.
But I believe you should not be surprised about the lack of reference to this in the [chair's conclusions]. It is true, three of our Eastern partners have association agreements in place but the other three do not. It is very important for us to be respectful and to keep this framework of the six partners together.
I would not be surprised of that difference that you see in the language of the association agreements and in the language that you see in the declarations and statements that we issue on the Eastern partnership as such because that takes together 6 partners that are very different from each other.
Each of them is a very important partner for the European Union and each of them has to be respected and is respected by the European Union in the differentiated aspirations they have in relation with the nature of their relationship with the European Union. This is why this is the language you find. The approaches on the aspirations of the six partners are very different and we want to make them all feel comfortable in this partnership with us. This does not mean that we cannot go deeper with some, as it is the case with those three [countries] that have association agreements and free trade agreements with us.
I understand that today you discussed the fact that Russia is issuing passports in Eastern Ukraine to Ukrainian citizens. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister [Pavlo] Klimkin said today that Ukraine thinks that the European Union should not limit itself with only formal sanctions or individual sanctions; Ukraine is expecting a more robust reaction. What could that be?
We discussed the issue not only with the Eastern Partners, but also in the beginning of the Foreign Affairs Council and I am sure we will follow up on this issue in the coming weeks.
The escalation in the Gulf region went one step further in the last 24 hours or more, when four commercial ships have been hit in the Oman Sea by perpetrators who are unknown until now. Did this issue come onto the table in the meetings today? And what is your comment?
We are still gathering information about that, including with the countries whose flags the vessels carried. So we are still assessing the situation. You often ask me if I am worried about something: I confirm my worry about the risks of an escalation in a region that certainly does not need further elements of destabilisation and tensions. As we assess the situation and as we are gathering information, our call is to show maximum restraint from all sides.
On Venezuela: did you have the chance to talk about the crisis with Secretary of State [of the United States, Mike] Pompeo in your meeting? In particular, do you sense that the United States are pushing quicker or slower for a military intervention in Venezuela? I understand that maybe the political mission that was decided in Costa Rica by the International Contact Group might be going to Caracas already next week? Can you give us details on who will be part of this mission and who will be the interlocutors they will meet on either side?
Yes, we addressed the situation in Venezuela with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I debriefed on the results of the Contact Group, mainly on the political track. I shared with him the fact that we have discussed in San Jose in the Contact Group some concrete ideas on options for a peaceful and democratic outcome of this crisis that would be also the basis of the conversations that this political mission will have in Caracas very soon. I cannot confirm today the dates nor the composition of the mission, but we are talking about a Vice-Ministers’ level and a mission to take place in a short time from now. I am sure that we will have a formal announcement on that quite soon. I briefed Mike Pompeo on the fact that we have prepared some concrete ideas to put on the table for different talks, not only with the two sides, as you call them, but also with the different stakeholders in Caracas. I have seen a lot of interest from his side on discussing these ideas also with them. There was no mentioning of a military intervention at all.
There are reports today that Iran is insisting on exporting at least 1.5 million barrels of oil per day. Is that correct? Is that your understanding of the Iranian position? Is it realistic to achieve that or is that a sort of a negotiating position?
It is not for me to comment on that. You should put the question to the Iranian authorities.
What I can tell you is that on the European Union side, on the side of the Member States of the European Union, there is full determination to do all we can, as I said with all our instruments, to implement at full our part of the nuclear agreement as long as Iran remains compliant with their part which are the nuclear commitments they have taken. I insist, so far, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has certified that Iran is compliant.
I want to stress this because I believe it is important. We reaffirmed today with the 28 Foreign Ministers of the European Union Member States that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] remains the only entitled body to verify that Iran is or is not compliant with its nuclear commitments.
We heard that the Foreign Minister of Cyprus [Nikos Christodoulides] informed you about all the recent actions of Turkey within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. Do you have any comment on that?
Yes, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus [Nikos Christodoulides] informed us about the situation. I want to personally thank him, as well as President [of Cyprus, Nicos] Anastasiades, with whom we have been constantly in touch in these days and these weeks, and also the Greek authorities with whom we have consulted on this issue in these weeks, for very frank and open channels that we have established on this issue. I can reiterate what I said already on 4 May in my statement on Turkey’s intended drilling activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, where I expressed on behalf of the European Union grave concern on the intention to carry out drilling activities within the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus and the strong condemnation that we already expressed in March last year of Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. We call urgently on Turkey to show restraint, and respect for the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its Exclusive Economic Zone and refrain from any such illegal action to which the European Union will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus. This is a position that was re-expressed again very clearly in Sibiu at the Heads of State and Government summit last week. This is also the clear position that the Ministers expressed today in solidarity with Cyprus.
Did you discuss about Sudan and come up with certain conclusions to help Sudan come out of its deadlock? Is the Council concerned about the continuing stalemate in Sudan?
I briefly mentioned at the beginning of the Council, the work we are doing in support of the transition and a civil government, and our full support to the African Union approach to accompany this process. We hope that this can be successful.
Is the Council talking with one voice on Libya?
We spent most of the Council today in presence of the UN Secretary General Special Representative [in Libya] Ghassan Salamé that we want to thank not only for his presence with us today and for the constant coordination he has always kept with us, but also with others in the region - from the League of Arab States to the African Union. He has always been available to all of us. But most of all, we want to thank him]for the impressive work that he and his team are still doing in Tripoli with the right approach [according] to us.
Today, yes, the European Union speaks with one voice on Libya. If you see divisions among and inside regional organisations, there are none inside the European Union today. There might be some inside other regional organisations around Libya. The European Union is clearly stating today that, first of all the LNA [Libyan National Army] military attack on Tripoli and the subsequent escalation in and around the capital constitutes a very serious threat to international peace and security, and that it opens the way for terrorist activities to pose more threats to the international community and obviously to the Libyan people.
Second, a united message that the European Union and its Member States passed is that the parties immediately implement a ceasefire and to engage with the United Nations to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities.
Third, recalling that there is no military solution for the crisis in Libya but there is a solution to the crisis in Libya, that goes through recommitment to the UN facilitated political dialogue. We call on all parties to re-engage on the political dialogue that was in place before the attack on Tripoli started a few weeks ago.
The last message I want to pass is a united message of all the Member States: our full and determined support to the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General [in Libya, Ghassan Salamé] in these weeks.
I have not detected any signs of divisions between and among the Members States of the European Union on Libya today, as well as in the last weeks. Now and today, the European Union is very much united behind the efforts that the United Nations are trying to put in place to re-open the space for a political process.
I have also discussed it this morning with Prime Minister [of the Government of National Accord, Fayez el-] Sarraj that visited Brussels today. I conveyed the same messages to him.
If there is one interlocutor, one global player on which the United Nations and the Libyan people can count today, it is the European Union.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-172096