"The Arab region was the only one in the world with whom the European Union did not have a summit before, which was sort of a paradox, as we are so close and we share so many challenges and opportunities," said High Representative Federica Mogherini upon her arrival at Sharm el Sheikh for the first ever summit between the European Union and the League of Arab States (LAS).
Mogherini said partners might not agree on everything, as it is normal, but the EU and the Arab League have an opportunity to cooperate even further to end several conflicts in the region. "Together we can work to end the war in Syria and close one of the darkest chapters in the history of our region," Mogherini said in her speech highlighting the importance of cooperation between the EU and the Arab League.
“We all agree that, when a political transition will be under way, Syria will have to be rebuilt with our support”, she added. “We will be together in helping the Syrians "win the peace", when the war is finally over. One thing is the absence of war, another is a stable peace."
"But the war is not over yet. And there are no shortcuts towards a truly sustainable peace," the High Representative said warning about "normalising relations" and putting aside the UN-led talks in Geneva and a negotiated political transition. In this sense, Mogherini said, the third Brussels Conference will be an opportunity to discuss how the international community can contribute to support the UN-led process and continue mobilize resources in support of countries in the region hosting millions of refugees. Similar cooperation is also needed for the full implementation of the Stockholm agreement on Yemen.
Working together is key, the High Representative reminded everyone, and there are results to prove it. In 2018, Palestine refugee children could go to school and humanitarian support could reach those in need because the EU and Arab states stepped up their contribution to UNRWA to fill a severe funding gap in the budget. "This shows what we can do and achieve when we work towards a common goal," Mogherini remarked saying peace between Israel and Palestine is at the top of everyone's agenda.
The EU and LAS also worked together in Libya through the Quartet in support of the UN mediation, where common work can help Libyan actors move towards a true reconciliation. "We can use our combined political leverage and our economic support – together with IOM and UNHCR - to help Libya close detention camps and ensure a better protection of migrants," the High Representative said.