European Union External Action

Declaration adopted at the Fourth League of Arab States - European Union Ministerial Meeting

20 December 2016

Preamble:

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European Union (EU) and of the League of Arab States (LAS), gathering at the League of Arab States headquarters on December 20, 2016 in Cairo, Egypt, under the Chairmanship of H.E. Khemaies Jhinaoui, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Tunisia, H.E. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, and H.E. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States:

• Acknowledging the importance of engaging together to address common political, economic, social and security challenges, in particular, the fight against terrorism and the prevention of radicalization and their root causes, as well as migration;

• Sharing their concern on the security situation to which both the European countries and the Arab States are confronted and confirming that these challenges are better addressed by a common Euro-Arab effort, in which both sides - in an equal partnership - share experiences, search for joint solutions and prepare the most adequate responses;

• Welcoming the progress achieved on Euro-Arab cooperation as a means to provide an integrated response to face  all these regional challenges, and expressing their determination to further strengthen relations to achieve regional and international stability and security, as necessary conditions for prosperity and socio-economic development;

Have adopted the following declaration:

 

STRATEGIC COOPERATION AND DIALOGUE

1. The Ministers welcomed the significant steps taken in strengthening relations between the LAS and the EU since the 3rd Euro-Arab Ministerial Meeting, especially the launch of the Strategic Dialogue in November 2015 and the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2015 by H.E High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, and H.E Secretary General of the League of Arab States.

2. The Ministers called for the organization of regular dedicated meetings of Senior Officials from both sides, in order to jointly define priorities and propose different mechanisms of cooperation in all fields and at all levels, including proposing other sectorial ministerial meetings, expert meetings, joint projects etc.

3.  The Ministers welcomed the suggestion to propose the organization of a regular Euro-Arab Summit to reaffirm the will of both sides to strengthen their relations and give strategic guidance to the cooperation between the LAS and the EU.

4. The Ministers recalled that the Strategic Dialogue conducted by the LAS and the EU facilitates exchanges on political and security issues and contributes to foster cooperation between the LAS and EU in many areas such as early warning, conflict prevention and crisis response, humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, the fight against transnational organized crime and weapons of mass destruction. Working groups have been established for each of these areas to facilitate joint work in order to better respond to current and future security threats. This strategic dialogue should be adapted to the needs of both parties with the economic dimension as an integrated principal component.

5. The Ministers reaffirmed the cardinal principles of sovereignty and independence of states, rule of law, good governance, security and respect for human rights and democracy within an inclusive political system, which represent key elements of sustainable development, security and stability.

6. The Ministers called for the development of preventive diplomacy tools, confidence and security building measures and dialogue as the only principles to resolve divergences, contribute to de-escalate tensions and prevent increasing sectarianism fuelling regional disputes. The Ministers tasked their Permanent Representatives to the LAS and EU Political and Security Committee’s Ambassadors, in consultation with the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Brussels, to explore mechanisms to agree on.

7. The Ministers condemned all terrorist acts and practices in all their forms and manifestations regardless of their motives by whoever committed them, and renewed their commitment to fight them in full respect of human rights and the rule of law. The Ministers agreed to share assessments and best practices and to cooperate in identifying means to address common threats and committed to full implementation of the UN Global Counter Terrorism strategy and all the relevant UN resolutions. The Ministers expressed their desire to effectively prevent and combat radicalization and recruitment and to address the phenomenon of foreign fighters in all its dimensions. The Ministers emphasized the importance of strengthening cooperation in the fight against organized transnational crime, including trafficking in human beings and drugs, as well as preventing terrorists from benefiting from the ransom payments in accordance with UN Security Council 2133 (2014).

8. The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of labor, migration and mobility for the development of the countries of both parties. In order to tackle the challenges and social and humanitarian effects of irregular migration, Ministers supported a comprehensive approach involving countries of origin, transit and destination that builds on the five areas of action identified by the Valletta Summit, which are tackling the root causes of irregular migration through economic and social development, increasing efforts to advance legal migration and mobility possibilities respecting national sovereignty, tackling criminal trafficking of human beings and people's smuggling, ensuring humanitarian treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and increasing cooperation on return and readmission. Ministers welcomed the establishment of a 2.3 -billion-euro EU Trust Fund to help Africa in counteracting the root causes of migration and noted the potential for closer cooperation on border management.

9. The Ministers emphasized the importance of enhancing cooperation between the League of Arab States and the European Union in the humanitarian field within the framework of the Strategic Dialogue, through the exchange of best practices, sharing information and enhancing cooperative efforts in coping with humanitarian crises.

10. The Ministers reaffirmed their adherence to the principles of international law, including the immunity of sovereign states. 

 

INSTITUTIONAL COOPERATION

11. The Ministers welcomed the EU-LAS Joint Work Program (2016-2018) and encouraged its swift implementation. The Ministers welcomed the impact of these projects in areas such as early warning, humanitarian assistance, human rights, civil society and women empowerment, and encouraged more active participation by Member States.

12. The Ministers welcomed the launch of the second phase of the project "Strengthening Crisis Response Capacities of the League of Arab States". The Ministers agreed on the importance of providing the necessary support to implement the project, so that the LAS could perform its role in light of the crises occurring across the region. The Ministers also considered the project as an effective tool of cooperation between the LAS and the EU and a step toward further cooperation in many areas.

13. The Ministers underlined their commitment to the promotion and protection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to economic and social development, freedom of expression and the freedom of religion or belief and condemned all forms of incitement to hatred and intolerance. The Ministers emphasized the need to ensure gender equality, protection for ethnic and religious minorities and full respect of human rights for all in accordance with international human rights instruments codified in national legislations. The Ministers stressed their full commitment to increase cooperation in these areas and recognized the important role that poverty reduction, equality, justice, good governance, social and economic development play in respecting human rights and maintaining peace, security and global stability. 

14. The Ministers stressed the importance of civil society in promoting human rights and supporting States to deliver civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights in accordance with international standards codified by national laws.

15. The Ministers affirmed that the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development constitutes an effective framework for dialogue and cooperation. The Ministers commended the early entry into force of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the outcomes of the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech.

16. The Ministers recognized the significant contribution that women make to the economy and the major force they represent for change and development in all sectors of society. In this context, the Ministers underlined their willingness to promote gender equality, notably through political, social and economic empowerment of women and girls, and welcomed the steps towards the implementation of the regional programme "Economic and Political Empowerment of Women" in partnership with LAS, EU and UN Women.

17. The Ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation and efforts in the field of child protection with the aim of eliminating all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children in line with Target 16.2 of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, and in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols. They agreed in particular to work together on preventive measures and comprehensive rehabilitation services for child victims of all forms of violence, especially refugee and migrant children and those affected by armed conflicts, to ensure their full recovery and reintegration into society.

18. The Ministers affirmed the need to open new lines of economic cooperation by launching an Euro-Arab Business Forum gathering high-level representatives from business and private sector as well as public actors. The Ministers stressed the importance of establishing a strategic partnership based on investment and development in order to create wealth, increase growth rates and reduce unemployment. The Ministers underlined that the region is a space of great opportunities not only an area of conflicts, that must be seized through the development of a positive agenda for the region.

19. The Ministers reiterated their support to the European Commission – LAS Liaison Office (ECLASLO) as a useful means to enhance cooperation and facilitate implementation of the Joint Work Programme. They encouraged the office to continue its efforts and welcomed the implementation of the ECLASLO Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2018.

20. The Ministers welcomed the reviewed European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) as an instrument to address the challenges of the region and its strategic objective of promoting equal partnership, aimed at supporting and fostering stabilization and resilience in coordination with the concerned neighboring countries.

21. The Ministers welcomed the ongoing work through the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM) under the leadership of the co-presidency, which contributes to the socio-economic development of the southern Mediterranean countries. They underlined the importance of implementing concrete projects on the basis of the rule of variable geometry and mobilizing the necessary resources for their completion based on a thorough case by case study. The Ministers underlined in particular the importance of cooperation on youth matters and welcomed the contribution of Anna Lindh Foundation and other bodies to this work.

22. The Ministers stressed the importance of deepening cooperation between the Arab and European sides in multilateral fora, including advancing efforts to achieve a comprehensive reform of the United Nations with the aim to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, accountability and representative ness of the whole UN system, including the Security Council, and to revitalize the General Assembly. The Ministers stressed the importance of Arab-European consultation efforts at all levels with regard to the Security Council work, in order to facilitate a more balanced approach in handling the different topics on the Security Council agenda, and in particular the issues concerning the Middle East.


POLITICAL ISSUES

• 23. The Ministers recognized the particularities of the various political processes taking place in the Arab countries and agreed that each of them should be addressed individually. The Ministers shared their concern on the deadlock of some regional crises.

24. Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)

• The Ministers reaffirmed the need for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in line with all relevant UN resolutions, especially UNSC resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and, 1515, and land for peace, while highlighting the strategic importance of the Arab Peace Initiative adopted in 2002 and recalled inter alia relevant Conclusions of the Council of the European Union related to the MEPP.

• The Ministers underlined that the realization of a two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace and to that end the international community should work with all relevant stakeholders to end the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and resolve all permanent status issues. The Ministers expressed concern that trends on the ground are dangerously imperiling the viability of that solution. They condemned all acts of violence and terror.

• The Ministers called for an enhanced role of the International Community, including the UN Security Council, the Middle East Quartet, the French initiative and the Egyptian efforts. The Ministers welcomed the Joint Communiqué adopted at the ministerial meeting in Paris on 3 June 2016, where participants discussed possible ways in which the international community could help advance the prospects for peace and welcomed the convening of an International Peace Conference soon. They emphasized the importance of the role of civil society from both sides.

• The Ministers reaffirmed their shared position that Israeli settlement policy, including in occupied East Jerusalem, and related actions such as demolitions and confiscation - including of EU funded projects – and forced transfers are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and endanger the viability of the two-state solution. In view of this, the Ministers strongly opposed Israeli plans to construct and expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and urged Israel not to adopt legislation which would allow for the "legalisation" of outposts and settlements in the occupied West Bank by confiscating private Palestinian property rights, which could have far reaching consequences. The Ministers recalled the importance of upholding the historic status quo for the Holy Sites, with particular regard to the Custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as reconfirmed in the agreement between HM King Abdullah II and President Mahmoud Abbas.

• The Ministers also called to respect of the rules of international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and Geneva Convention of 1949, including with respect for all Palestinian and Arab prisoners and detainees, especially juveniles, in Israel prisons. They called for the release of prisoners in accordance with previous agreements and an end to excessive use of administrative detention in contravention of international law.

• The Ministers called for all parties to take swift steps to produce a fundamental change to the humanitarian, political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points in accordance with access and movement agreement of 2005, and accelerate the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

• The Ministers welcomed the EU commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements products, as well as the EU commitment to ensure that - in line with international law - all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

• The Ministers welcomed the Palestinian efforts exerted to build and strengthen State institutions, as well as the commitment of Palestine to uphold democratic principles and human rights, which is represented in its accession to international treaties and conventions. The Ministers also agreed on the need to continue politically and financially supporting the Palestinian government. The Ministers called on Israel to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C.

• The Ministers called for sustained support for UNRWA to be able to continue performing its mandate and responsibilities in the relief and works of Palestinian refugees at all levels.

25. Syria 

• The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and independence of Syria. They renewed their support to the efforts made by the United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura as well as to the full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012 and UN Resolution 2254 and 2268. The Ministers stressed that inclusive Intra-Syria talks are the only way for a credible and genuine political transition based on power sharing as well as a lasting peace and encouraged efforts by the High Negotiation Committee to find a political solution.

• Ministers expressed their deep concern over the situation in Aleppo. They strongly condemned the deliberate and indiscriminate attack on Eastern Aleppo by the regime and its allies, and the targeting of civilians and humanitarian infrastructures. They called on all parties to ensure: the voluntary, safe, dignified and unobstructed evacuation of all civilians under international monitoring supervision to a destination of their choice; full unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need throughout Syria, including support for the provision of essential medical help; and an immediate cessation of hostilities and the resumption of access to besieged areas. They welcomed the adoption of the UNSCR 2328 on humanitarian situation in Aleppo. The Ministers condemned the violations of human rights, humanitarian international law and potential war crimes, and agreed on the importance of bringing those responsible to justice.

• The Ministers strongly condemned the terrorist acts and crimes committed against civilians across Syria by Da'esh and UN designated terrorist groups, and support the efforts of the Global Coalition against Da'esh.

• The Ministers affirmed the high cost borne by the countries of the region, especially neighboring countries, and in this context, the Ministers stressed the important role of donors to contribute to finance national response plans and called to fully meet the pledges in this regard, especially for the humanitarian needs of displaced people, refugees, and the developmental needs of the host communities. They called on countries and donors to fulfill their obligations and commitments announced in successive donors conferences in Kuwait and London. The Ministers underscored the need for a comprehensive approach towards neighboring countries hosting a mass influx of Syrian refugees and displaced, through burden sharing and adequate support for national economic infrastructure and host communities and express appreciation and support in particular to Jordan and Lebanon for the burden they have borne. The Ministers expressed appreciation and support to Jordan for the heavy repercussions due to hosting 1.3 million Syrian refugees.

• The Ministers condemned in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons by the regime and Da'esh in Syria as documented in the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) reports of August and October 2016 and called on the parties to the conflict to desist from any future use of chemical weapons as well as from their development, production, stockpiling and transfer. All those responsible for such use must be brought to justice.

• The Ministers finally expressed their commitment to support the reconstruction of Syria only once an inclusive political transition is firmly underway, in order to support the safe return of the millions of Syrian people who have fled their home.

26. Yemen

• The Ministers affirmed their commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen and their support to the aspirations of the Yemeni people for freedom, democracy, social justice and development. They reiterated their support to the legitimate Government led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi while insisting on the urgency of the restoration of legitimate state authority through a peaceful settlement to the conflict, in accordance to GCC Initiative and implementing mechanism, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and in particular resolution 2216, as well as the proposals of the ongoing UN led peace initiative. In this context the Ministers commended the efforts of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General in Yemen, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

• The Ministers called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and cessation of hostilities as a first step for the resumption of an inclusive Yemeni political process.

• The Ministers condemned all unilateral measures, such as the formation of the so called “National Salvation Government” in Sana’a, formed by the Houthis and Saleh, which violate international resolutions and jeopardize the peace process efforts.

• The Ministers recalled the devastating humanitarian and economic impact of the conflict and urged all the parties to the conflict to allow safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers and supplies, to facilitate access for and distribution of essential goods and services throughout Yemen and to ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.

• The Ministers also expressed their support for the Yemeni Government’s efforts to combat terrorist organizations and fight against extremism and radicalization.

27. Libya

• The Ministers affirmed their commitment to the unity, sovereignty and integrity of Libyan territory and their rejection of any foreign intervention if not upon the request of the presidential council and the government of national accord and in coordination with them, as they had stated in the joint statement on Libya at the 71st UN General Assembly on 22 of September 2016. They called for an inclusive political solution to the crisis in Libya. They reiterated their support for the full implementation of the Libyan political agreement signed in Skhirat on 17 December 2015. They reaffirmed their support for the existing political dialogue under the auspices of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Libya. In this context, they welcomed the appointment of the Special Representative to the Secretary General of the League of Arab States in Libya.

• The Ministers called for Member States and other states to preserve the funds, assets and other Libyan frozen assets and work on returning them to serve the Libyan people, according to relevant Security Council resolutions, paragraph 18 of resolution 1970 (2011), paragraph 20 of resolution 1973 (2011), and they also called on providing political and financial support for Libya's government of national accord as the sole legitimate government of Libya, and to cease support to and official contact with parallel institutions that claim to be the legitimate authority but are outside of the Agreement as specified by it; and called upon their urgent assistance to fully implement the Agreement and rehabilitate civilian institutions as well as military institutions operating under the command of the Presidential Council, and provide it with expertise and necessary equipment in the areas identified by the Presidential Council to the Government of National Accord (GNA) to undertake its pressing national responsibilities, and to abide to the relevant Security Council resolutions, most recently Resolutions 2259 and 2278.

• The Ministers expressed their deep concern over the challenging security context and the terrorist threat in Libya and commended the liberation of Sirte by forces under the authority of the Presidential Council and the GNA as a major stepping stone on the way towards the liberation of other Libyan cities. They condemned the actions of those calling for violence, including against the Presidency Council. They encouraged the unification of all Libyan forces under the civilian authority of the Presidency Council as the only way to restore peace and stability in Libya. They welcomed the establishment of the Presidential Guard to fulfill its mission to protect Libyan institutions.

• The Ministers called on the Presidency Council, the House of Representatives, Council of State, the Central Bank of Libya and other Libyan national economic institutions to work together to agree and urgently implement solutions to address Libya’s economic problems. They welcomed the Rome inter-Libyan communiqué on 17 November 2016. They recalled all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding illicit oil exports and all relevant measures to strengthen the authority of the GNA on Libyan economic institutions.
 • The Ministers moreover stressed the importance of the mechanism of neighboring countries and the role of the LAS and the EU in promoting political settlement in Libya.

28. Lebanon

• The Ministers welcomed the election of the President Michel Aoun and the formation of a national unity government led by Saad Hariri as crucial steps to ensure Lebanon’s ability to address the growing political, security, economic and social challenges ahead and to ensure the proper functioning of the democratic institutions. They reaffirmed their commitment to the unity, independence, integrity of Lebanon and their attachment to its stability to safeguard its role as a model of moderation and coexistence in the region. They expressed grave concern for the repeated pattern of violations of the Lebanese sovereign airspace and maritime borders, and in this regard called on all parties to fully abide by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, and commended the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in maintaining the stability in South Lebanon in close cooperation with UNIFIL. They also stressed the importance of increased political and economic support through the International Support Group and other formats.

• The Ministers commended the LAF and security services for their crucial role in combating and preventing terrorism targeting Lebanon and called for increased international support to LAF.

• The Ministers expressed their deep concern for the exceptional situation resulting from the hosting by Lebanon of almost 2 million displaced persons and refugees. This mass influx has created a heavy burden on the country’s national economy, stability and security. They stressed that the only sustainable long term solution for refugees and displaced persons from Syria into Lebanon is their safe return to their homeland as conditions are met. In this context, the Ministers welcomed the adoption of the Partnership Priorities and Compact between Lebanon and the EU and called other donors to join efforts to mitigate this crisis.

29. Iraq

• The Ministers strongly condemned the terrorist organization Da'esh for its atrocious crimes and egregious violations of fundamental rights perpetrated against Iraqi citizens, including people who have been targeted on a religious or ethnic basis, as well as the destruction of Iraqi cultural heritage, places of worship and monuments. They urged to bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Security Council resolutions that oblige all countries to cooperate in combating Da'esh, and to refrain from any kind of support to it.

• The Ministers commended the latest victories achieved by the Iraqi armed forces in liberating areas from Da'esh.

• The Ministers reiterated their full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq and underlined the importance of non-interference in its internal affairs. The Ministers called for the non-presence of any foreign forces without the approval of the Iraqi Government and expressed their hope that Turkey and Iraq will settle their tensions in Northern Iraq through dialogue, stressing that any military aid or support to Iraq must be based on a request and consent from the Iraqi government.

• The Ministers reiterated their commitment to support Iraq through the provision of humanitarian aid to displaced persons and short and mid-term stabilization of the areas liberated from Da'esh. They commended Prime Minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi and his government's efforts to preserve national unity among all the Iraqi people and encouraged them to pursue the comprehensive reform plan aimed at inclusiveness and national reconciliation, stressing that all Iraqi minorities are an integral part of Iraq and it is a priority for the Iraqi government to protect them.

30. Iran

• The Ministers emphasized the importance that relations between Arab States and the Islamic Republic of Iran be based on the principles of good-neighborliness, refrain from the use of force, non-interference in internal affairs, respect of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, resolution of disputes through peaceful means, according to UN Charter and International Law. They recognized that de-escalating tensions and rebuilding confidence would help to strengthen security and stability in the region, and expressed concerns about interventions that had a destabilizing effect on Arab States.

• The Ministers welcomed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which is a multilateral endeavor endorsed by UN security Resolution 2231(2015) and in full conformity with the Non Proliferation Treaty. They recalled the importance of its continued full and effective implementation by all sides.

31. Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa

• The Ministers expressed their concern on the lack of progress towards the resolution of the territorial conflict between the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic Republic of Iran on the issue of the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. The Ministers reiterated their support for a peaceful solution to the conflict in accordance with international law, either through direct negotiations or by referring the issues to the International Court of Justice, as suggested by United Arab Emirates.

32. Sudan

• The Ministers welcomed the African Union road map as well as the launching by the Government of Sudan of the comprehensive national dialogue and the beginning of the process of exposing its results to the parliament in the framework of preparing a permanent constitution for Sudan and called on all parties to engage in an inclusive and constructive  dialogue.

• The Ministers expressed their support to the sustainable development in Sudan and took note of its aspiration to external debt relief. They also welcomed Sudan continuous efforts in combating irregular migration.

• The Ministers supported the efforts of the UN, the government of Sudan and the African Union to review the effectiveness and status of UNAMID.

33. Somalia

• The Ministers noted the progress on the current electoral process and hoped that this will be concluded shortly, marking an important step for Somalia.

• The Ministers also emphasised the importance for the new Federal Government of Somalia together with the regional administrations to prioritise a Somali-owned national security architecture based on the National Security Policy and also in view of the AMISOM transit strategy 2018. 

• The Ministers emphasised the importance of facilitating access to Somali products in their markets in order to help the rehabilitation of the Somali economy and called on their organisations to coordinate efforts to help combating drought and its disastrous consequences in Somalia. They commended the initiative to convene a donor conference to support the Somali education sector during in the beginning of 2017 in Kuwait.

• The Ministers called upon Member States to help restructuring Somalia's external debts and support its efforts towards establishing an adequate institutionalised relationship with international financial organisations especially the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They welcomed the IMF Staff Monitored Programme and encouraged the Somali government to implement it.

34. The Ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in 2018 in Europe.